Oakland, CA

Oakland passes law for increased oversight of 'militarized' police equipment

Built in the Bay

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(OAKLAND, Calif.) The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday to allow for increased oversight of the police department's use of "militarized" equipment like armored vehicles, certain ammunition, projectile launchers and tear gas.

The new law requires police to submit policies, impact reports and annual reports about the use or purchase of such equipment to the Oakland Police Commission, a civilian group that oversees department activities. From there, the commission will recommend the appropriate use of the equipment to the city council.

Members of the civilian commission began drafting the ordinance more than two years ago but it came in front of the city council just days after the revelations that more than a dozen Oakland officers are facing disciplinary action for their tactics against demonstrators during the protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

Of the roughly 300 use-of-force complaints filed during the height of the protests in Oakland, May 29- June 1, four investigations were launched. According to police, those four investigations found 33 instances of officers violating policy on June 1, mostly for improper deployment of tear gas.

Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong noted that those officers will not be able to chemical agents without command staff present but did not note any additional punishment.

Last week during a council committee meeting, Armstrong expressed concern that the scope of the ordinance would require staff to fulfill the report requests.

"There will be an increase in the manual workload to implement the necessary requirements," Armstrong wrote in a memo to the city council this week.

The council will discuss the financial ramifications Thursday during its meeting about the city budget, which they expect to finalize this month. Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas will present the budget she and a team of councilmembers created following Mayor Libby Schaaf's proposal put forward in May.

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