City Council to oversee transfer of military equipment to Berkeley police

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Berkeley City Council now must approve transfers of military equipment to Berkeley Police Department from the United States Department of Defense, because of a resolution introduced by Councilmember Kate Harrison that was passed Tuesday night.

Harrison said she created the resolution in response to slackening regulations regarding the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, which allows the department to give surplus military equipment — ranging from furniture and computers to firearms and tactical vehicles — to local law enforcement agencies. The resolution requires that City Council approve of any equipment that BPD requests from the Department of Defense.

This summer, the Trump administration repealed an Obama-era executive order that required local governments to approve transferred equipment and placed restrictions on the types of equipment that could be transferred. Harrison said she is concerned that these rollbacks will create an excessively militarized police force.

“Some (police) departments elsewhere have received some serious militarized equipment, and the image of using that in a domestic setting is concerning,” Harrison alleged. “There is an increasingly blurred line between the military and the police.”

Harrison added that she hopes Berkeley will set an example for the nation, as one of the first jurisdictions to reassert local oversight of the 1033 Program since President Donald Trump revoked the Obama administration’s executive order.

While BPD can still access the 1033 Program, the department has not acquired equipment through the program for about 10 years, according to BPD spokesperson Sgt. Andrew Frankel. Frankel added that BPD supports Harrison’s resolution, but that he does not expect that the resolution will make a dramatic change in the department.

“(The 1033 Program) is a potential source of equipment that might otherwise be cost prohibitive, so we would want to keep access to it,” Frankel said. “But we understand our community’s values, and as such we are happy to discuss the resolution with the City Council.”

Contact Sam Levin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SamJLevin.