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Orange releases records of police weaponry in lawsuit brought by Quaker organization

Records show Orange purchased fifty Colt assault rifles for $56,845 and armored vehicle for $280,569

Photo: Pedro Rios / AFSC

OAKLAND, CA (May 20, 2022) The City of Orange has produced all of the public records on the purchase and deployment of militarized equipment for which the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)  initiated litigation in March of this year. AFSC is a Quaker organization that has worked for decades in California to end mass incarceration and police militarization. The organization was represented by Sara Kohgadai and Abenicio Cisneros in the litigation.

On May 18, the Orange City Attorney produced records of deployments of an armored vehicle and of “less lethal” launchers and munitions. Orange also produced purchase records of assault rifles, munitions launchers, and munitions. The lawsuit for public records was formally served to Orange on April 6. Orange worked with AFSC to search for and release non-exempt, responsive records once the lawsuit was filed and will be required to pay AFSC's attorney fees for the litigation. 

“Orange’s disclosure of records of military gear used by police in response to our litigation shows that all cities and counties need to be transparent,” said John Lindsay-Poland, Co-Director of AFSC’s California Healing Justice program. “It is important for community members to understand just how militarized law enforcement has become.”

The disclosed records show that in 2019 Orange purchased fifty Colt assault rifles that can fire 1,250 bullets per minute for $56,845, as well an armored vehicle for $280,569 in the same year. The records also show that Orange Police Department deployed impact launchers and fired “less lethal” munitions at a man on a roof with no firearm who was apparently in a mental health crisis or intoxicated. In another operation, officers used impact launchers to break surveillance camera lenses outside a building where illicit gambling was reported.

In December 2019, Orange PD officers shot and killed Erik Lee  a 43-year-old man diagnosed with bipolar disorder who was experiencing a mental health crisis. Lee’s parents have filed suit in federal court for use of excessive force.

Like every other city and county in California, Orange was required by new state legislation, AB 481, to disclose and submit use policies by May 1 for militarized equipment used by law enforcement. Orange PD’s military equipment policy shows that the city has five drones, an armored vehicle, 77 assault rifles, 33 “less lethal” impact projectile launchers, as well as flashbang grenades and tear gas. 

In an Orange City Council meeting on May 10, local officials scoffed at the state transparency law, although an Orange Police Department officer told the city council that the law was created for “accountability and transparency for police departments to identify what equipment they have, what its purpose is, and what governs it.” The City Council will consider military equipment in a second reading on June 14.

AFSC has been providing ongoing support to California communities seeking transparency and demilitarization of police. The organization has published an “Advocacy Toolkit,” a letter from over 70 organizations, and an in-depth research report titled Equipped for War that have been used by elected officials and activists for advocacy in more than 20 communities to date. 

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The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions. 

 

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