The Pleasanton City Council gave initial support last week to an ordinance that would continue allowing the Pleasanton Police Department to use military or specialized equipment.
Council members passed the first reading on June 7 with the agreement that city staff and Pleasanton police come back at next week's meeting with more information and statistics on how often police use such equipment.
"We're approving something that I don't know how often we use all these things and for what purposes, and I know that information isn't readily available tonight but I would like to see that," Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin said.
Pleasanton police sought to pass the ordinance that adopts a military equipment use policy and even though City Council unanimously approved the first reading, the department leaders must now come back with information on the usage of the equipment and statistics.
The ordinance is part of Assembly Bill 481, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last September. The bill requires police departments in California to keep a running list of what is defined as military equipment for oversight by local governing bodies, which now have the authority to approve or reject the use of such equipment by local law enforcement.
Military equipment, as defined by AB 481, does not necessarily indicate equipment used by the military. Items deemed by the bill to be "military equipment" include robotic vehicles, armored rescue vehicles, tear gas, less-than-lethal weapons such as beanbag shotguns, 40-millimeter projectiles and noise/flash diversionary devices -- all of which Pleasanton police currently use or possess.
Some of the main reasons for concerns among council members were surrounding protest and anti-riot gear such as tear gas. Councilmember Julie Testa said during the meeting that she had community members tell her they were concerned about police authorizing the use of such equipment.
Councilmember Kathy Narum similarly asked if tear gas has ever been used in Pleasanton, but Police Chief David Swing told the council that their tear gas has only been used by other cities but not in Pleasanton.
Along with that came the police department's main point to the council, which was that it's important to have this equipment not just in case of emergency in Pleasanton but for mutual aid in other neighboring cities.
"So it's not just about Pleasanton. It's also our ability to request and for other agencies in our county to respond to help support us if that were to be necessary," Swing told the council.
On the topic of protest gear, he also mentioned that the final approved list includes acquiring new 40-millimeter non-lethal projectiles. Swing said that while the goal is to never use, he still thinks it is important to have for the safety of the city and the region.
"The recommendation for example for the additional 40 mm platforms is another example of us trying to be more effective in using the least amount of force required to safely take someone to custody," Swing said.
Another main talking point was about the department's armored truck, the ballistic armored tactical transport vehicle. The purpose of the truck is to drive into dangerous areas and rescue people and officers, according to the city staff report.
The discussion, however, was not about taking away the truck but more on how it is being used for promotional purposes at events with children being allowed inside the vehicle.
Arkin said she was not comfortable with children being exposed to armored police vehicles. Testa shared that sentiment saying there should be more discussion on the department continuing this practice.
"Having it as an attraction in our neighborhoods and with our families, I think that's uncomfortable to a lot of people," Testa said.
But Narum said that there are a lot of kids who do want to see the armored truck and asked Swing to come back with more plans and information on handling the issue at next week's meeting, scheduled for Tuesday (June 21).
The overall notion in the council was unanimous on supporting their obligation to keep Pleasanton safe and that it is essential to keep the department's military or specialized equipment to plan for the worst case.
"If we don't have them, what do we do when we have a catastrophic situation with an active shooter on an elementary school site?" Mayor Karla Brown said. "If you don't have any way to go in and get people out of a building, what do we do?"
In other business
The council adopted an allocation plan for the special revenue fund related to the Pleasanton Garbage Service (PGS) rate reserve. The plan will use the money received from a previous agreement with PGS and the rate reserve to pay for new costs related to waste and recycling.
In 2020, the council approved the nearly $5.3 million PGS rate reserve calculation and approved $2 million to be deposited into the city's general fund and the remaining $3,342,285 to be placed in a special revenue fund and allocated at a later date.
According to the city staff report, "The primary purpose of the plan is to provide a strategic approach to passing on new costs to the ratepayers and if needed smooth those costs over a period of time. Four areas are proposed for use of these funds: implementation of State law SB 1383, street maintenance costs incurred from collection vehicles, smoothing garbage rates, and landfill related issues."
The council approved the plan with a motion to also conduct a $25,000 nexus study for road maintenance due to collection vehicles so that they can use money to offset one-time cost for rate smoothing, which would reduce large cycle-to-cycle variations in rate.
"I would like to see a nexus study to find out what these three trucks that are going up and down everyone's street, what they're doing to effect the quality of those roads that we spend millions doing these road improvements every year," Brown said.
City staff told the council that the ratepayers will benefit from available funds, it's just how they allocate those funds over time.