Clovis

“Legislating for the criminals”: Clovis tees off on Calif. law unmasking police arsenal

Although a military equipment use policy was passed, the Clovis City Council expressed its displeasure in having to disclose its military equipment to potential criminals.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 481 into law in January, which requires law enforcement agencies to receive approval from their governing bodies for their military equipment usage. Law enforcement agencies also have to seek approval for all future acquisitions as well. 

Assembly Bill 481 mandated local governments to approve a policy that governs the use of military equipment. 

According to the definition prescribed by the legislature, the military equipment currently used by the Clovis Police Department includes a mobile command vehicle, a crisis negotiation team vehicle, drones, 40 mm launchers and rounds, flash bang grenades, chemical agents, smoke canisters, armored vehicles, explosive breaching tools, less lethal shotguns and a robot. 

The councilmembers were displeased with the state for passing a law that they felt hurts the Clovis Police Department. 

“For the legislators in Sacramento to make these onerous policies and laws that now every police agency has to go through is short-sighted and it favors the crooks, not officers, and not the victim,” Mayor Jose Flores said. “Our legislators in Sacramento are legislating for the criminals, not for police, and definitely not for the victims.” 

Clovis is not the first government in the Valley to speak out against this. Last week the Kings County Board of Supervisors moved forward with bringing the policy back for approval, but the board voiced its disdain for forcing the sheriff’s office to reveal its arsenal. 

Flores called the law “evil” and argued the council is not militarizing its police force by allowing such equipment to be used, but is instead protecting Clovis residents. 

“It’s difficult to look into the heart of the people who wrote this and come up with their motives,” Councilman Drew Bessinger said. “I would have to concur with Jose that this is not supporting the police. It’s not supporting the community. It’s making things easier on people who want to riot and burn and do things like that.” 

Bessinger said he thinks legislators who supported AB 481 should have to opt out of their California Highway Patrol protection. 

“It’s just gotten to the point where the hypocrisy disgusts me at times,” Bessinger said. “If there’s things that are going to be out there to protect our officers who can protect the citizens, we need to make sure we take advantage of those things.” 

Councilwoman Lynne Ashbeck added, “It’s an example of a bill that is solving the wrong problem. It’s just a list of things. It’s the humans that use them that make it effective or not, and Clovis has the best trained officers around. It’s an unfortunate piece of legislation.” 

While the council passed the policy unanimously, the councilmembers spoke about how they felt their hands have been tied by the state. 

“They say the police are trying to militarize,” Flores said. “No, no, no, no – they’re trying to protect themselves and the public they serve. And for that this legislature up in Sacramento is penalizing them and penalizing the departments they work for and the cities that hire them to protect us. This is backwards legislation, and this governor is an idiot for signing these bills.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.