Midpeninsula Post

State bill reveals police military equipment inventories

The Los Altos Police Department in November 2020. (Gil Rubinstein)

Law enforcement agencies must now make their military equipment inventory public and receive government approval before acquiring more to comply with recent state law Assembly Bill 481.

The Post spoke with Los Altos police captain Kathryn Krauss, Mountain View police chief Chris Hsiung and Palo Alto police captain James Reifschneider about their respective department’s military equipment inventories, where they got funding, authorized use cases and recent uses. Here’s what you need to know.

The bill, passed to increase transparency and accountability in law enforcement, separates military equipment into 15 categories, ranging from armored vehicles and weaponized aircraft to pepper spray and Tasers. However, Krauss and Hsiung take issue with that definition, arguing that equipment like pepper spray shouldn’t qualify as military equipment.

Each department leader acknowledged that their officers don’t fire or utilize military equipment often, but that the equipment — especially non-lethal weapons — are a necessary tool.

“These are tools that give police officers more options,” Krauss said. “With technology increasing, there are additional tools out there that allow us to do our job more safely, in order to prevent lethal force from being used.”

Scroll to the bottom of this article for a full list of each department’s military inventory and its full policy.

Los Altos

Since 2017, there have been 16 cases of rape, 176 cases of non-aggravated assault, 38 cases of assault, 982 thefts, 22 cases of arson, 83 cases of domestic violence and one homicide in Los Altos, according to the Los Altos Police Department and Department of Justice. The population of the city is roughly 31,000.

The LAPD currently owns around $77,000 worth of military equipment. This includes:

Twenty seven AR-15/M4 5.56 mm semi-automatic rifles
These rifles are only taken out of patrol cars or the police station when officers believe there may be guns or weapons involved in an interaction. They can be used to engage with suspects at a longer distance, allowing officers to keep a safe distance and prevent being outgunned by a suspect. However, Krauss could only recall one moment when these weapons were utilized since she joined the department 11 years ago: to kill an already injured deer.

One Remington 700 .308 caliber sniper rifle and one Heckler & Koch HK-91 .308 caliber sniper rifle
These rifles are used for both officer training and deployment to the field. While officers have taken them out of their vehicles, the rifles haven’t been fired at anyone in the past 11 years. Krauss said that the Heckler & Koch — seized from a suspect — isn’t being utilized. Because getting rid of or destroying seized weapons is a lengthy process, the department still has the seized weapon in storage.

Eleven Remington 870 less lethal shotguns and 3 Penn Arms GL-140-C 40 mm single shot launchers
According to the LAPD’s draft policy, these tools are used to “limit the escalation of conflict.” The less lethal shotguns fire lead filled bean bags, and the single shot launchers fire rubber bullets.

According to Krauss, communication is always an officer’s first tool when trying to deescalate— which seems to be effective, considering that Krauss couldn’t recall a time that an officer fired any military equipment in the past 11 years.

“Our goal is always to deescalate without having to use any force at all,” Krauss said. “But there are some situations in which that is just not feasible. And so in those situations, these are the tools that we have in order to give our officers options to resolve the situation as safely as possible.”

Krauss provided a few examples of when an officer might use less lethal force against a suspect: a school shooting, a suspect armed with a firearm and an armed individual experiencing a mental health crisis. 

“Let’s say someone is having a mental health crisis, and maybe they are feeling suicidal or they want to harm someone else. Let’s say they’re in a busy shopping center parking lot, and they pull out a knife,” Krauss said. “There is distance between our officers and the person with a knife. However, the person refuses to drop the knife and is either threatening self harm or threatening to harm some people around them.”

While less lethal force is an option, Krauss made clear it is never an officer’s only option. Often, out of three officers dispatched to a dangerous situation, one will be equipped with less-lethal force while the other two will have firearms. 

“If [a suspect] raises the firearm up and is about to you know, harm someone, then we could follow our policy and take lethal force against them,” Krauss said. “But, if we can use less lethal with the 40 millimeter, and in order to get them to drop the weapon… Then that saved us from having to use the lethal force.”

Mountain View

Since 2017, there have been 75 cases of rape, 1,481 cases of non-aggravated assault, 526 cases of assault, 11,203 thefts, 39 cases of arson, 128 cases of domestic violence and two homicides in Mountain View, according to the Mountain View Police Department and Department of Justice. The population of the city is roughly 80,000.

The MVPD currently owns around $665,000 worth of military equipment. This includes:

Two Mavic 2 enterprise drones
The drones, which are used as extra surveillance during situations involving suspects, were purchased for $12,000, and require $15,000 in annual maintenance. However, that cost, published in the department’s policy, may not be accurate, according to Mountain View Police Chief Chris Hsiung, and remains unclear.

Two .308 caliber sniper rifles
It’s been over 20 years since a sniper rifle has been utilized in attempts of disarming or killing a suspect. Despite this, the SWAT team continues to stay trained and prepared, and two officers renew their qualifications with the sniper rifles every other month.

Eighty eight Colt AR-15/M4 rifles and 20 M16 rifles
Hsiung stated that all officers on patrol — 40 to 45 at a time — should always have a rifle with them to avoid confusion and establish individual responsibility for weapon care.

“We assign them each their own rifle so that they’re used to it,” Hsiung said. “We would not want a case where we only buy ten, and everyone has to share ten weapons. It’s just not practical for wear and tear.”

The AR-15s were paid for by taxpayers, while the M16s were acquired from the U.S. military. According to Hsiung, the rifles are “virtually indistinguishable” from one another.

Even though every officer has a rifle within reach while on patrol, not a single one has been fired in the field for as long as Hsiung can recall.

One Robotex Avatar robot
This small remote-operated device, which has a rectangular body and is propelled by four track wheels, is used to get information in high-stakes situations without risking the safety of an officer. Although its lifespan technically expired in 2018, it remained functional enough to execute a search warrant in June last year.

One mobile command and control vehicle
The command vehicle contains multiple LED TVs, a dispatch console and its own WiFi network and was purchased for $536,000 in 2016. The freightliner is used during large events, like Mountain View’s Art and Wine Festival and concerts at the Shoreline Amphitheater. The vehicle gives support by providing a conference room for the patrolling command team.

Palo Alto

Since 2017, there have been 34 cases of rape, 166 cases of assault, 9,038 thefts, 75 cases of arson and two homicides in Palo Alto, according to the Palo Alto Police Department and Department of Justice. The population of the city is roughly 70,000.

The PAPD owns around $718,000 worth of military equipment. However, a large portion of the equipment listed in the department’s proposal is owned by other agencies that the PAPD works with, which are not required to make prices public. The real equipment value is higher than the above figure and currently unknown.

One Accuracy International tactical bolt action rifle
Akin to a sniper rifle, the rifle is the department’s largest and most expensive firearm, coming in at $6,500. According to the department’s policy, officers must complete a course to operate the weapon, which requires the user to manually chamber each round of ammunition.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll never have to use a sniper rifle,” Reifschneider said. “But if there was a specific circumstance where you have an imminent threat to life, that sniper rifle could be the only tool to resolve the circumstance.”

Currently, no officers at the department have the necessary training to operate the rifle.

One command and control vehicle
The Mobile Emergency Operations Center was purchased in 2010 with $300,000 of federal grant funding and $375,000 of city funding.

The vehicle, commonly used to support Stanford football games and other events, contains a variety of technology and radio dispatch options. According to Reifschneider, these features can be used to transition operations — like 911 calls — to the vehicle during power-outages or earthquakes.

Full inventories sourced from departments’ policies are listed below. Click on a city to read its full policy.

Los Altos

Three Penn Arms 40 mm single shot launchers
14 Sage Control Ordnance standard energy baton projectiles
11 Remington 870 less lethal shotguns
90 12 gauge super-sock bean bag rounds
27 Colt AR/M4 rifles
10,800 rounds of .223 Caliber or 5.56 mm rifle ammunition
Two .308 caliber Remington 700 and 700 liter rifles
One .308 caliber Heckler & Koch HK-91 rifle
3.040 rounds of .308 Ammunition
One Benelli M3 Super 90 12 gauge shotgun
600 rounds of 00 buck ammunition
100 slug ammunitions
One Remington 870 MCS 12 gauge breaching shotgun
25 rounds of 12 gauge breaching rounds
One Kaiser Precision Vulcan II munitions pole
One CTS flash bang training kit
Eight Simunition Glock 17T
Four SIM Converted Beretta 92
Two HK MP5 Conversion Kits
Three simunition colt AR-15 carbine rifle uppers
3,500 rounds of FX marking cartridges

Mountain View

Two Mavic 2 enterprise drones
One Robotex Avatar robot
One mobile command vehicle
Two explosive breaching apparatuses
88 colt AR-15/M4 rifles
12 surefire rifle suppressors for SWAT rifles
20 M16 Rifles
Two .308 caliber sniper Rifles
One .50 caliber semi-automatic rifle
48 noise flash diversionary devices
20 rounds of 40 MM barricade penetrator liquid CS
30 canisters of CTS 5230B baffled CS
10 canisters of CTS 5230 CS
Five canisters of CTS 5231 CS smoke triple phaser
25 canisters of Def-Tech CS riot control
Five munitions of CTS 4630 40 mm CS
15 munitions of Def-Tech CS
Two FN303 less lethal launchers
Two 40 mm single-shot launchers
One 40 mm 4-shot multi-launcher
One 12 gauge shotgun chemical munition launcher
50 rounds of 40 mm less lethal sponges
40 rounds of 40 mm less lethal sponges with CS
20 rounds of 40 mm less lethal sponges with OC
900 rounds of less lethal .68 caliber projectiles
30 canisters of baffled CS

Palo Alto

30 37 mm less lethal launchers and kinetic energy munitions
One long range acoustic device
108 diversionary devices and chemical agents, which includes:
– Flash bangs
– Mini Bangs
– CS 37 mm Liquid Ferret barricade round
– CS 37 mm Liquid Ferret barricade round
– CS flameless tri-chamber
– CS triple chaser separating canister
– CS riot control grenade
– Maximum HC (Hexachlorethane) smoke
One bolt action rifle and ammunition
One command and control vehicle

Monday, Sept. 19: This article was updated, to include an additional quote from Krauss, and to better reflect the circumstances under which an officer might use less-lethal force.

One thought on “State bill reveals police military equipment inventories

  1. I like that this article accumulated usage anecdotes and crime data for each agency. The sections for each article of ME were informative. However, I object to one assertion. The article assigns the citing of an example of the use of less-lethal projectiles to Capt Krauss of Los Altos as follows: “…a suspect pointing a firearm at civilians…” That is NOT a situation where a less-lethal projectile would be used. Anytime a firearm is being pointed by a suspect at any human (other than themselves, suicidally), the LE officer will operate under an attempt to deescalate, but the weapon at hand will be a lethal firearm, and they will be prepared to shoot to eliminate the threat by aiming at center body/chest (largest mass) of the suspect. Yes, the likelihood of killing the suspect is high. Yet, this is not a “shoot to kill” directive; it’s about eliminating the threat, so aiming center mass is the highest probability of threat-elimination. By the way, there is no operational tactic that dictates shooting to disarm or maim with a lethal weapon. Moreover, less-lethal projectiles and weapons inherently have less effective targeting, making accurate suppression in a potentially deadly scenario involving a suspect with a firearm even more difficult.

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