Leaders in Palm Springs were reviewing policies about Palm Springs Police Department's military equipment use Thursday evening. City council members then voted 5-0 to table a vote on authorizing a military equipment use policy.
Police departments now have to publicly share written policies about what's in their arsenals and how equipment can be used. PSPD said its military equipment is important in responding to critical incidents in Palm Springs.
Last September, Gov. Newsom signed into law AB 481, which requires departments to publicly disclose written policies around military style equipment.
"The whole bill is really about transparency," said PSPD Lt. Gustavo Araiza. "The community needs to know what we have. And it's not the mere possession of the equipment; it's how we use it, too. That's the other aspect that we need to report back to the community."
According to a staff report written by city officials, "The Palm Springs Police Department acknowledges its primary role is peacekeeping and recognizes the delicate nature of a law enforcement agency possessing military equipment. Being entrusted with military-style equipment ... is a sacred responsibility that demands high accountability and transparency."
Araiza said the equipment is used in sometimes highly complex and unpredictable law enforcement encounters.
In September 2021, a SWAT team was called in after a man in a downtown Palm Springs restaurant had a gun in his lap.
In October 2021, two Palm Springs police officers were ambushed by a man with an assault rifle.
"This (AR-15) is the style of weapon that the suspect was using," Araiza said. "In order to address that issue, we had to deploy the same firepower."
Araiza said military equipment is only used defensively. Assault rifles, for instance, allow officers to accurately shoot from a further distance at an armed and dangerous suspect.
"This equipment shouldn't be considered assault equipment because we have to go out there and take a defensive stance to try to neutralize the scenario," he said.
In March 2022, Riverside County's board of supervisors approved an ordinance that tightens how the Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's office can purchase military equipment.