Brentwood police held a community meeting Tuesday to explain to the public why they’re spending money on and using military equipment – even if the community did not show up.
“We are a small town,” Brentwood police Chief Tim Herbert told a crowd of no one. “But we have big-city problems every now and again, and you have to be able to address a big-city problem in a small town with big-city resources. That’s the key and you never know when it’s going to happen.”
The explanation of what was used and what the department is asking for not only in accordance with Assembly Bill 481 and Brentwood Police Policy. The state law requires law enforcement agencies to report to and obtain approval of the applicable governing body (City Council), of any use of military equipment.
According to the presentation from Herbert, last year Brentwood police used drones, Colt AR-15 M4 assault rifles, 40mm rounds, CS (Chlorobenzylidene malononitrile) gas, or tear gas, and a stinger CS gas grenade.
“We’re in the profession of ‘We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t,’” Herbert said.
“We’ve had to rely on incidents where we’ve had to rely on other agencies to utilize their equipment,” said officer Mitch Brouillette of the Brentwood police SWAT team. “We need those things in our community to have access to not have to rely on someone else, to try and be as self-sufficient as possible.”
Military equipment was used in three incidents last year, all for search warrants, police said. Despite military equipment being used, Brentwood police reported that there were no public concerns or complaints regarding the equipment, and there were no internal investigations about the department’s use of the equipment.
This year, the department is asking for new ammunition rounds, flashbangs, and new AR-15/M4s that are labeled as “enhanced patrol rifles.”
“The (old) patrol rifles, I’m going to replace them,” Herbert said about the request for the new rifles. Herbert said his request for the rifles is because the old ones can’t fit new optics on them for drastic situations.
“If I can get the advantage to the point where (Brentwood police) have a better advantage over the bad guy, then why wouldn’t I get that, right?”
“A lot of these items are types of things where you use it and it’s gone.”
The department approached City Council with almost the same report last year, while then-police Chief Tom Hansen asked for a $380,000 armored rescue truck back in August.
“I can’t see us not purchasing this,” then-Councilmember Karen Rarey said at the time. “It’s a no -brainer for our community.”
Not only was the request cleared, it was fully supported by both the Council and the community, according to Herbert.
Herbert’s effort for transparency within the department comes at a time of distrust between the police and public, especially in other cities. He says that isn’t much of a problem in Brentwood, where the department has the support of the community it serves.
“Community engagement is the most important and being transparent is the most important thing,” Herbert said. “We can’t police without the support of our community. If the community is not going to be supportive of us, and be able to step forward and be witnesses and help us out, then we’re not going to be able to solve crime. And that comes with transparency and trust.”
Councilmember Tony Oerlemans attended Tuesday’s meeting and also stressed the importance of the transparency behind what the police department is trying to do.
“The reason for this is education,” he said. “Most people don’t trust things they don’t understand, right? So, if you can educate them and get them to understand why an AR-15 is a needed piece of equipment, then all of a sudden you’ve taken away that mystique, the rumors, and they realize there’s a purpose for that gun.”
“Then all of a sudden all the distrust starts to kind of fade away, all the garbage rumors start to fade away, because they start to understand what these guys do.”
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