The Coast News Group
Escondido police: The Escondido City Council has approved the police department's military equipment policy. Courtesy photo/EPD
The Escondido City Council has approved the police department's military equipment policy. Courtesy photo/EPD

Escondido once again approves police military equipment policy

ESCONDIDO — The City Council has once again approved the Escondido Police Department’s military equipment use policy and annual report, following a state mandate that was enacted two years ago.

Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 and taking effect in 2022, Assembly Bill 481 requires law enforcement agencies to develop policies and include an inventory of their military-grade equipment.

Under this law, police agencies must provide information through an annual report to their respective city councils regarding the purchase, use and funding source of equipment that falls under the military-grade classification. A governing body, like a city council, decides to approve or deny the report based on the department’s compliance. 

Escondido first approved the implementation of its policy in 2022 and re-approved it last year, doing so again this year by a 4-0 vote on April 17. Councilmember Consuelo Martinez was absent.

The police department’s military-grade inventory covered by the law includes drones, robotic platforms, incident command vehicles, armored personnel carriers, breaching equipment, patrol and SWAT rifles, flashbangs, a long-range acoustic device, non-lethal 40-millimeter launchers and chemical agents.

“We use this equipment to protect the community — that’s the basis of our need,” Escondido Police Lt. Erik Witholt said. “It’s acquired with intention and consideration, and when there’s no reasonable alternative, using equipment not considered military grade for the purpose of citizen and officer safety.”

Witholt said the police department’s military equipment inventory does not include mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, humvees, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, vessels or vehicles, firearms or ammunition of 50 caliber or greater, or firearms designed to launch explosive projectiles. 

The annual report also included information on how many times the equipment was used last year. 

The department’s drones were used in 151 mission flights totaling 14.64 hours; incident command vehicles were used 13 times; armored personnel vehicles were used three to six times per month; breaching equipment was used once; flashbangs were used 17 times; 40-millimeter launchers were used eight times and used for display only 15 times; and chemical agents were used once. 

The department did not use its robotic platform, patrol and SWAT rifles or its long-range acoustic device in 2023.

The department said it did not receive any complaints regarding its use of military-grade equipment.

As part of the report, police requested the purchase new “pepper ball” launchers.

No one from the public spoke on the Police Department’s annual report and military equipment inventory at last week’s City Council meeting. The department held a public meeting to hear from residents about questions or concerns regarding the equipment prior to the council meeting, but no one attended.

Councilmember Joe Garcia said no public speakers meant the police had done well in carrying out its military equipment policy last year.

“It’s clear here in the staff policy that the desire from the police department is to de-escalate,” Garcia said. “I’ve seen it happen… it’s because our officers use the equipment they have in a proper manner.”

The Carlsbad City Council this month approved its police department’s military equipment policy.

Leave a Comment