OROVILLE — With many concerns still surrounding the use of military equipment by local law enforcement agencies, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea gave a presentation before the Butte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday during which he broke down what it means as well as what his office has stocked.
Honea stressed during the supervisors meeting that what is called military equipment according to Assembly Bill 481, the bill that requires approval for the use of said equipment, is defined by state lawmakers.
“The term military equipment, unfortunately, is misleading,” Honea said in the opening of his presentation. “And I think, unfortunately, that was by design. People who ultimately authored this bill, I think there was an effort to enrage or invoke passion to play upon a misunderstanding as to what that equipment actually is.”
Honea went on to explain that the equipment classified under the bill was based on a list created by the legislature and added that the classification does not mean the office received the equipment from the military nor is it necessarily used by the military. He said the number of tools used by his office that overlap with military use is limited.
One item Honea brought up that is used by the military is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, referred to as an MRAP. In addition to the vehicle, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office has two robots used by the bomb squad and 73 patrol rifles.
“The MRAP has been used sparingly,” Honea said, adding that it was used in the arrest of Brandon Teixeira, who was on Canada’s most wanted list in 2019.
The rifles that fall under the state’s military equipment list, Honea said, are getting old and will likely be replaced soon. Honea noted that the rifles are the same ones that can be purchased at a firearm dealer.
Honea defended the use of the equipment by law enforcement officers on his staff.
“This specialized equipment has and continues to be deployed judiciously and constitutionally by BCSO,” Honea said. “Many of the listed items are used exclusively, or predominantly, by our SWAT team or our hostage negotiation team, our bomb squad, such as the tear gas robot, certain firearms and the armored vehicles.”
Other items owned by the Sheriff’s Office that fall under the classification include a long-range acoustic device, 40-millimeter launchers with less-lethal ammunition, a beanbag shotgun, launching cups that allow for the shotgun to fire chemical and smoke canisters, distraction devices such as flash-bang grenades, breaching shotguns and ammunition used for getting into locked or barricaded buildings and a tool that shoots small balls of pepper spray.
A public hearing was held in relation to the presentation during which residents expressed their thoughts on the use policy, some for and some against. Diane Suzuki was one individual who expressed her concerns about the use of military equipment by law enforcement agencies.
“We are deeply disturbed by the sheriff’s military equipment use policy which includes unmanned aircraft system drones, costing $22,000 for two of them,” Suzuki said speaking on behalf of Concerned Citizens for Justice. “Robots, armored vehicles, launchers, drones and other weapons and we are not in favor of the militarization of our county sheriffs. Past militarized response against peaceful protesters has brought criticism by military personnel and politicians from both sides of the aisle.”