BERKELEY, Calif. (Jeff Shuttleworth/BCN) - Berkeley City Councilwoman Kate Harrison said on Monday that she thinks the council should be given the power to review and approve any surplus military hardware that the city's Police Department seeks from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Harrison said in recent years Berkeley citizens have expressed concerns about the use of military equipment, such as armored and weaponized vehicles, grenade launchers and camouflaged uniforms, at the local law enforcement level.
Harrison said Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer excess defense material to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
But she said people across the country became concerned about local agencies using military weapons and equipment in 2014 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, used such equipment to respond to protesters who were upset about an officer in that city fatally shooting black robbery suspect Michael Brown.
Harrison said former President Obama reacted to those concerns in 2015 by issuing an order to standardize procedures for local agencies in obtaining defense materials, limiting the scope of eligible materials, requiring training in civil liberties, requiring after-action reports and requiring that local civilian governments authorize the acquisition of such materials.
However, Harrison said President Trump issued an executive order in August that revoked Obama's order and allows local agencies to acquire military equipment without getting approval from local governments.
Harrison said she is asking the Berkeley City Council at its meeting on Tuesday night to approve a resolution requiring that it review and approve any military equipment that the city's Police Department wants to acquire.
She said she believes that the City Council should be given the right to approve such requests on a case-by-case basis.
Harrison said she also thinks the Berkeley Police Review Commission should determine whether the city should participate in the Department of Defense program at all.
In addition, Harrison said the resolution asks that City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley to give the City Council a report on the dates, contents and uses of any materials that have been given to the Police Department through the Department of Defense program.
Harrison said she hasn't heard of the Berkeley Police Department acquiring any military hardware recently but she said it's enrolled in the 1033 program and she would like to find out for sure.
She said the resolution would take effect immediately if the City Council approves it.