By Aiyana Moya
The Santa Cruz City Council returned Aug. 11 from summer break and unanimously adopted a policy that requires city council approval for the acquisition of military equipment by any city department.
Police Chief Andy Mills presented the resolution for the policy, which was initially introduced Nov. 24, 2020, when the council introduced a slate of bills aimed at reforming the police department.
The resolution is in response to the federal 1033 Program, which allows federal, state and local agencies to apply for and receive surplus military equipment. The types of equipment that could be acquired under the program vary from military-specific equipment and vehicles to generic office furniture or first aid kits.
Currently, there are no procedural checks in place to limit or oversee what equipment city departments apply for under the 1033 Program. The Santa Cruz Police Department does not have military equipment, nor has it applied for or accepted military equipment in recent history, Mills said.
Should the police department, or any city department, want to accept or apply for military equipment, it would now submit a proposal to the council, delineating the reason for securing military equipment. The resolution also requires departments in possession of military equipment to submit an annual report to the City Council Public Safety Committee, specifying the type and purpose of military equipment in use—however, there is no language around the council’s ability to remove military equipment after reviewing these reports. Lastly, the policy gives the city council the authority to accept or deny requests for grant funding that would be used to acquire military surplus items.
City Council member Jason Cummings supported the move.
“Many members of the community have expressed concern over having the ability to accept military-grade equipment … having the council weigh-in will allow for it to be a transparent process,” Cummings said.
City Council member Sandy Brown also supported the resolution but warned of the consequences of any militarization of the police department.
“For the record, I’m opposed to the city getting involved in acquiring military-grade equipment … I think that the move towards militarizing local police forces is problematic,” Brown said.
In other action, Deputy Chief Bernie Escalante gave an update on the Black Lives Matter mural vandalism suspects. Brandon Bochat, 20, of Santa Cruz and Hagan Warner, 19, of Boulder Creek met bail, and SCPD detectives are still searching for two suspects involved in the vandalism. Both are assumed to be youths and one is suspected to be out of state, Escalante said. A preliminary hearing for Bochat and Warner will be held on Sept. 20.
The Equity Collaborative is working with the District Attorney’s office to create outreach materials that communicate the impact of the defacing of the mural, to be displayed next to the mural in the coming weeks.