.SVPD Outlines Military-Grade Weapons Policy

Move is to meet requirements from Assembly Bill 481

Scotts Valley police say they don’t have much in the way of militaristic crime-fighting gear.

During the April 6 Scotts Valley City Council meeting, Capt. Jayson Rutherford noted the Scotts Valley Police Department only has items that fall in a couple of the categories outlined by the new state law that forces law enforcement agencies to make public the details of their military-grade equipment.

Assembly Bill 481, which went into effect on Jan. 1, requires agencies to get approval for the military-style tools they want to use.

“It’s fairly simple for us,” Rutherford said. “It’s not really anything earth-shattering we’re asking for.”

The draft policy was posted on March 10, and on March 15 a public meeting about it was held in Council Chambers, staff said.

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Rutherford said the local police force uses the Colt LE6920 AR-15 carbine and the Bushmaster XM-E2S AR-15, which are both semi-automatic weapons.

Officers must pass a 16-hour “POST Certified Basic Patrol Rifle Operator” as well as SVPD’s own rifle qualification course to use these firearms, according to the staff report.

In addition, officers use the 12-gauge beanbag shotgun (Remington 870 converted to “less lethal” category), and have for more than two decades, Rutherford said. SVPD also stocks ammunition (Safariland 12G Drag Stabilized Bean Bag Round) for this weapon.

“Officers utilizing a less lethal shotgun must successfully complete department training consisting of policy review, written test, and qualification course,” his staff report stated, noting must requalify each year. “There is a demonstrated need for officers to carry the less lethal shotgun on duty as it gives officers an additional use of force option that is less likely to cause great bodily injuries or be lethal.”

Rutherford or the armory sergeant would be the officials designated as “military equipment coordinator.”

Under the policy, Scotts Valley officers won’t be allowed to borrow military gear from other departments.

“We wouldn’t do it anyway because we haven’t been trained on it,” he said.

Scotts Valley recently got a real-life example of how this would play out, after a suspect shot at California Highway Patrol officers on Jan. 25, and the Santa Cruz Police Department dispatched an armored vehicle to the all-night hunt for the two suspects.

“They were the only ones that operated it, because they were the only ones that were trained on it,” Rutherford said.

Councilman Jack Dilles asked if there was already an active policy for when police could use the machine guns.

“I certainly want our officers to be safe,” he said.

Rutherford said this falls under the department’s rifle policy.

Officers can fire the semi-automatic guns if they feel they’re under threat of death or great bodily injury—or if they’re protecting someone else who is, he said.

Council will hold a public hearing on the policy on April 20, with final adoption set for May 18.

Afterward, SVPD will be required to prepare an annual report that lists the use of military equipment, any complaints about this inventory and information about any internal audits.

The report outlined no fiscal impact connected with adopting the policy.

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