City adopts military-use ordinance in compliance with AB 481

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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In compliance with Assembly Bill 481, the Winters City Council adopted Ordinance 2022-03 at the May 3 council meeting approving a military use policy for the Winters Police Department (WPD).

Last year, AB 481 was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom to increase transparency, accountability and oversight surrounding law enforcement’s acquisition and use of defined “military equipment.” The law requires that governing bodies approve funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment within its jurisdiction when the military equipment meets specified standards.

As noted in the city’s staff report to council, the term “military equipment” does not necessarily identify equipment that has or is being used by the military or is even of military-grade.

Winters Police Chief John P. Miller noted in the staff report that the WPD does not currently have, nor does it intend to acquire in the near future, any of the “military equipment” as defined in Govt. Code §7070; however, in the interest of transparency, staff listed our standard issue “patrol rifles” and rifle ammunition in our “military equipment” list.

The detailed listing of what “Military equipment” is defined in accordance to AB 481, and the required listing of “military equipment” currently in possession by WPD is included on the police department’s website under the “transparency portal” section on the link titled “Military equipment: funding, acquisition, and use per Government Code 7072/ Assembly Bill 481.”

WPD would be required to obtain approval from the city council if it chose to procure military equipment in the future.

In the interest of transparency, the city listed 14 Colt Sporter M4 carbine rifles and ammunition that are classified as “standard issue service weapons.” As such, they were said to be exempt from the military equipment use policy.

The law requires annual reporting of any use of the equipment, complaints, violations of the use policy, internal audits and whether the agency intends to acquire military equipment in the subsequent year.

The report, as required by law, has been posted on WPD’s website under the “transparency portal” section.

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