City of Berkeley passes ordinance that regulates police use of militarized weapons

Bay Area

BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — City leaders in Berkeley say they are now the first in the nation to require their police department to chronicle the use of militarized equipment.

KRON4’s Haaziq Madyun spoke with the Berkeley Councilmember who authored the ground breaking legislation.

Photos show examples of controlled equipment including specialized firearms, projectile launchers, batons 30 inches or longer, breaching apparatus or battering rams and, long-range acoustic devices.

The acquisition and use of these items are now regulated by the new police equipment and community safety ordinance approved by the Berkeley city council.

“The aim of the ordinance is transparency to understand what equipment the department has and how they are using it,” Kate Harrison said.

The principal author of the new legislation, Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison, says the ordinance is primarily an annual report that will include an inventory of current police equipment, the official policy for its use and, the circumstances.

“Frankly a lot of this grows out of concerns for Black Lives Matter and the sense that sometimes this weaponry appears more in lower-income African American neighborhoods and than it does in my neighborhood,” Harrison said. “We want to know where it was or was it a lot of crowd control. Did we have a lot of demonstrations when it was used? It’s that kind of information we are looking for. Right now we don’t know how often it’s used or where because there is no reporting on it.”

This type of equipment is typically used by the U.S. military and is now commonly acquired and used on America’s streets by local police departments.

“What is now standard to the police is not standard to the public. These things really look frightening particularly when it’s a large group of officers, like in a crowd control situation,” Harrison said. “This list partially came out of former President Obama’s of equipment that was being acquired by the military. It’s been heavily vetted by our police review commission.”

The police equipment and community safety ordinance is the final piece of last summer’s sweeping police reforms passed by the Berkeley City Council.

“The public has the right to know when and where.”

The Berkeley Police Department was asked if they are in favor of the new ordinance. They sent a short statement that reads:

“The Berkeley Police Department has a long history of listening to our community and we intend to continue that tradition with the council’s recent legislation.”

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