New State Law Requires Sheriff to Disclose Military Equipment at the Armory

By Carl Butz

DOWNIEVILLE — While reviewing the Board of Supervisor’s agenda for their April 7 meeting at the Downieville Courthouse, item 10.C. looked to be the most interesting. County Counsel, David Prentice, would be telling the Board of their need to consider an ordinance for “approving any military equipment policy prepared by local law enforcement before May 1, 2022.”

Yes, as it happens, Sheriffs are not equal among our local elected officials. According to California Government Code, the Board of Supervisors is the “governing body” for local law enforcement agencies.

Thus, to be in accord with AB 431, legislation signed into law in 2021 which declares: 1) “The acquisition of military equipment and its deployment in our communities adversely impacts the public’s safety and welfare, including increased risk of civilian deaths, significant risks to civil rights, civil liberties, physical and psychological well being, and incurment of significant financial costs”; 2) “The public has a right to know about any funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment by state or local government officials as well as a right to participate in any government’s decision to fund, acquire, or use such equipment”; 3) “Decisions [about funding, acquisition, and use] should be based on meaningful public input.”; and, sheriffs in California must present an annual inventory of military equipment and a written policy concerning the rationales for its existence to their “governing body”, Sheriff Mike Fisher went before the Board late on Tuesday morning.

In his presentation, we learned the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office armory contains ten M-16A-1s 5.56 caliber rifles, ten Aim-point rifle sights, plus one non-armored Humvee (now owned by the County). While Fisher has had thoughts of acquiring surplus military vehicles (pick-ups or vans), he is not currently looking for anything. Moreover, according to the proposed ordinance, Fisher will have to make public (post) any future intentions to purchase any item included on the long list of equipment his draft policy states is available to him:

  • Unmanned, remotely piloted, powered aerial or ground vehicles.
  • Mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles or armored personnel carriers.
  • High mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV), two-and-a-half ton trucks, five ton-trucks, or wheeled vechicles having a breach or entry apparatus attached.
  • Tracked armored vehicles that provide protection to their occupants.
  • Command and control vehicles that are either built or modified to facilitate the operational control and direction of public safety vehicles of any kind.
  • Battering rams, slugs, and breaching appartuses that are explosive in nature. This does not include a handheld, one-person ram.
  • Firearms and ammunition of less than .50 caliber, including firearms and accessories identified as assault weapons in Penal Code § 30510 and Penal Code § 30515, with the exception of standard-issue firearms.
  • Any firearm or firearm accessory that is designed to launch explosive projectiles.
  • Noise-flash diversionary devices and explosive breaching tools.
  • Munitions containing tear gas or OC, excluding standard service-issued handheld pepper spray.
  • TASER® Shockwave, microwave weapons, water cannons, and long-range acoustic devices (LRADs).
  • Kinetic energy weapons and munitions.
  • Any other equipment as determined by a governing party or a state agency to require additional oversight.

Meanwhile, in order to be successful in securing community input, Fisher withdrew the ordinance from consideration at the 4/7 meeting. However, before leaving the dais, he promised the notice of a public hearing on the issue will be posted for distribution well in advance of May 22.

In other developments revealed during the meetine, the Board learned from Vicki Clark from the County’s Environmental Health Services Department about some movement on the gas station issues in Downieville and Sierra City. In Downieville the owner is now eligible for a grant allowing for removal of the leaking tanks and in Sierra City the owner is now working on measures needed to permanently close the site.

As for the new FEMA flood plain maps threatening to raise insurance bills in Loyalton, Sierra Brooks are currently being evaluated by Far West Engineering at the behest of the City of Loyalton in preparation for an appeal against FEMA’s product.

With respect to the public nuisance property at the southeast corner of the intersection of highways 49 and 89 in Sierraville, Tim Beals reported the realtor reports active interest in the structure by potential buyers and the building is now open for inspection. However, at the suggestion of Supervisor Adams and with support from County Counsel Prentice, to avoid any accusations of hiding issues about the integrity of the structure containing unpermitted construction, notice of the nuisance is slated to be recorded.

Meanwhile, the Board approved a cost sharing agreement with Plumas County for legal representation in a lawsuit filed by Feather River Action! and Project Coyote.

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