SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department hosted a community engagement meeting Monday night to talk about its military equipment use with the public.
The gathering Monday is part of a state law that went into effect in January 2022. AB-481 requires departments post a report of its inventory of military equipment, cost and how the military equipment is used, plus hold a community engagement meeting to answer questions.
“I don’t want them to be fearful of any of this equipment listed in the report. I want them to know that the sheriff’s department researches this equipment. We follow nationwide stories; we are always trying to be prepared to respond to any kind of critical incident…. we want them to know how it’s used,” Lt. Chris Galve with the department explained.
The sheriff’s department 72-page report details the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department military equipment and its uses. It includes inventory such as unmanned aerial systems, drones, surveillance robots, armored vehicles, guns, ammunition, rifles, grenades, pepper spray and more.
“It’s just transparency, I don’t see any kind of issue except the bad guys are going to know what we got,” retired Sheriff Jack Strumsky said.
The document said these items would be used when responding to incidents such as serving a high risk warrant, civil unrest, hostage or active shooter situation and more.
The most expensive item the department acquired in 2022 was a bomb squad robot. The item was paid for by grants at $431,632.70. According to the report, the Bomb Arson Unit uses the equipment for safer entry and investigating devices. It’s estimated the device would last between 10 and 15 years.
Strumsky said equipment such as armored vehicles and BearCats are vital.
“If a police department and sheriff’s department does not have one, they’re insane, this is the best thing to use for rescues of citizens, police officers,” Strumsky added. “It’s going to save lives, you cannot put a price on it, $400,000 is a drop in the bucket.”
The community did give feedback and shared questions about the county department’s use of military equipment.
“The equipment the military uses to protect its people and effect their mission. That’s what I want, to affect my mission, to save my guys, and good for all these agencies that go to the military to buy it, because it’s the smartest move they can make, and people that don’t like that, they’re not trying to militarize, they are just trying to get the job done, effectively, efficiently and above all else, safely,” Strumsky added.
Catharine Douglass, a La Jolla resident for instance, said she attended Monday to get a better understanding of why the equipment is being used and how it can better protect the community.
“I learned today that this equipment is really only used by people who are highly trained, it’s only used in critical situations. I think the community has a misconception that lesser trained people or patrol deputies have access to this equipment when that is not the fact,” Douglass said.
FOX 5’s Sarah Alegre contributed to this report.