NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Council approves SDPD military equipment ordinance

Posted at 9:00 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 00:00:00-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - This week the San Diego City Council gave final approval to a policy on military equipment used by the San Diego Police Department.

It’s a controversial issue, with some San Diegans saying the equipment is practical and needs to keep people safe, while others say the police department already functions too much like a military unit, instead of law enforcement.

The San Diego Police Department has a new policy requiring a description of each type of military equipment, the quantity sought, its capabilities, and the purpose for which it will be used.

It also requires the department to disclose how much it spends on military equipment and the procedures by which members of the public may register complaints or concerns or submit questions about the use of each specific type of military equipment.

ABC 10News went through the list of military equipment items the department currently has. According to the report submitted to the City Council, it includes unmanned aircraft systems (drones), armored rescue vehicles, flashbangs, chemical agents, and explosive breaching equipment among others.

At a council meeting on April 5, Police Captain Dan Grubbs said, “Each piece of the equipment is critical for the department’s ability to maintain public safety.”

He said most of the equipment is utilized exclusively by the department’s SWAT Team.

Grubbs also noted that the items he described in his presentation are all manufactured by civilian companies, and the vast majority are available for civilians to purchase.

"No. It's just straight up ‘no’ on military equipment,” said Anne Barron with the nonprofit group the Peace Resource Center.

Barron says tactical-style equipment escalates situations.

"It’s not community policing,” Barron said. “We've been promised community policing, and we're not getting community policing. We're getting very aggressive policing."

According to the police department, military equipment costs in this year's budget at $905,599. The department says that makes up 0.1 percent of its nearly $600 million budget.

“I am generally uncomfortable with how many guns are on the street and how militarized our whole society is and would very much like to move to a place where we need less of that,” said San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. “We’re trying our best to make sure that the city doesn’t go too far but is also adequately prepared and I think that what we heard at council in our conversation as presented by the police department was that in sum San Diego is doing a pretty good job in balancing with what we need without going too far. I fully recognize that there’s folks who believe wholeheartedly that we went too far long ago. I think what was presented to us was reasonable enough.”

Elo-Rivera said he believes the new report and process is transparent and will continue to stay that way.

"So long as I'm on the council and I think some of my colleagues as well, that we will be giving this a very very close look and ensuring that we are prepared for what we need to be prepared for but not going much further beyond that," he said.

The ordinance will be reviewed each year.

The military equipment is not part of the U.S. military surplus purchasing program, which the department says it doesn't participate in.