Equipment and Assembly Bill 481
A new law, Assembly Bill (AB) 481, was one of several police reform bills signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2021. It went into effect on January 1, 2022. AB 481 is designed to increase community awareness surrounding a police agency’s possession and use of certain types of equipment and requires the City Council to provide both authorization and oversight of its use.
The Palo Alto Police Department’s AB 481 policy was approved by the City Council on September 27, 2022. It can be viewed via the link below, and public input on the policy can be shared through the form at the bottom of this page. The City Council considered a draft proposed policy at its regular meeting on September 12, 2022 (read the staff report for this item(PDF, 491KB)) and voted 7-0 to approve it; the City Council voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance that incorporated the policy on September 27, 2022 (read the staff report for this item as well as the ordinance itself(PDF, 387KB) ). It should be noted that the policy approved in September 2022 did not contemplate the addition of any new equipment; it simply describes equipment already in the Police Department’s possession. Also, for reference, the Department does not possess any equipment that is “atypical” for the region and Palo Alto possesses fewer types of this equipment than many other Bay Area agencies.
AB 481 requires that agencies produce a report annually discussing the use of the equipment, and that the City Council provide ongoing authorization on an annual basis for the ongoing possession and use of the equipment. Those annual reports, as well as the dates that City Council will next review the policy once the item has been added to a Council agenda, will be added to this web page as they become available.
View the Approved AB 481 Policy(PDF, 37KB)
Read this article for more information and details on our policy
What qualifying equipment does the PAPD currently possess?
The only pieces of qualifying equipment as defined by AB 481 currently in the possession of the Palo Alto Police Department are the following items. It is important to note that the PAPD has possessed this equipment for years (in some cases, decades), and all of it is designed specifically for a law enforcement (not military) application.
- Command and control vehicle (the Mobile Emergency Operations Center, or MEOC, which resembles a large recreational vehicle and serves as a mobile command post at critical incidents, disasters, or special events, as well as a back-up 9-1-1 dispatch center in the event the City’s main dispatch center is compromised or unavailable; the MEOC is most typically operated by the City’s Office of Emergency Services).
- Less lethal munitions (rubber projectiles fired from a handheld launcher, available to all properly-certified sworn officers to provide less lethal use of force options to safely effectuate arrests of criminal suspects in limited situations).
- Chemical agents (paintball-type projectiles containing a pepper-based irritant powder fired from a handheld launcher, available to all properly-certified sworn officers to provide less lethal use of force options to safely effectuate arrests of criminal suspects in limited situations; also canisters containing a substance commonly referred to as “teargas," used exclusively by members of the Department’s SWAT team who have received specialized additional training to provide less lethal use of force options to safely effectuate arrests of criminal suspects in limited situations).
- Diversionary devices (commonly referred to as “flashbangs," used exclusively by members of the Department’s SWAT team who have received specialized additional training; the equipment creates an auditory and visual diversion to facilitate the operation of tactical teams during a critical public safety incident).
- Long-range acoustic device (similar to a megaphone, used by properly-trained sworn personnel to facilitate communication with subjects from a safe distance).
- One sniper rifle with associated ammunition (used exclusively by members of the Department’s SWAT team who have received specialized additional training, which allows them to address threats with greater precision at a greater distance).
The Palo Alto Police Department does not possess any unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), robots, armored tactical vehicles, or other types of qualifying equipment as defined in AB 481.
For more information about this equipment, please view the approved policy(PDF, 387KB). Specific detail on each piece of qualifying equipment possessed by the Department appears in Section "G," which begins on page four of the policy (page seven of that document in its entirety).
What new equipment does the policy allow PAPD to acquire?
None. The policy does not include a request to acquire any new equipment.
Click here to view form.