A middle-aged Latina woman and older white woman in government meeting

Richmond Council Backs PG&E Alternative, Questions Police Military Equipment Use

A middle-aged Latina woman and older white woman in government meeting

Richmond City Council member Gayle McLaughlin, right, asked that definitions in the Police Department’s military use policy be expanded, something Vice Mayor Claudia Jimenez said is “really important for police accountability.” (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

PG&E’s negligence has “trapped” Californians, according to one utility justice campaign, but it doesn’t have to be forever. The solution might already exist.

The Richmond City Council on Tuesday passed a resolution asking state leaders to implement Golden State Energy, a nonprofit created in 2020 to overtake PG&E if it failed to come out of bankruptcy or maintain the safety of its infrastructure.

“We’ve seen that with only (PG&E), when there are issues…California residents lose,” said council member Doria Robinson.

A letter in support of the implementation, which the council says is in the “best interest” of residents and would end “PG&E’s monopoly” on California’s energy, will be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Oakland, and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland.

Shaina Nanavati, a research organizer from the Reclaim Our Power coalition, said in a presentation that there are benefits of a transition to the nonprofit model — including more transparency and reliable energy to all communities — but obstacles remain.

What “is lacking is the political will to stand up to PG&E’s lobbying and control,” said Nanavati. “(California needs) to implement a solution that will address the cause at its root.”

PG&E’s actions have caused wildfires in the state, including the Camp fire — the deadliest in its history — excessive rates and power shut-offs that harm low-income and disabled residents.

Some of these impacts hit close to home for Richmond residents. Robinson recalled being approached by a resident who was unable to afford more groceries after a power outage spoiled food in their refrigerator and freezer.

Outages at nearby refineries have also caused flaring, shelter-in-place orders and other incidents that affect community health.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Mayor Eduardo Martinez, Vice Mayor Claudia Jimenez and Robinson.

Military equipment in the RPD

Some council members expressed concerns with information in the Richmond Police Department’s annual military equipment report, prompting them to ask for stricter guidelines and more detailed reports.

Council member Gayle McLaughlin asked that certain definitions in the department’s military equipment use policy be expanded, including what “use” covers and language regarding flash bang usage.

“I think it’s really important for police accountability that we are able, in the next report, to show more information,” said Jimenez.

Of the military equipment that California law requires to be included in reports, RPD has unmanned drones and robots, command and control vehicles, assault weapons less than .50 caliber, kinetic energy weapons, munitions with tear gas and pepper spray and flash bangs, according to RPD Capt. John Lopez.

>>>From the Archives: Council Questions Use of Military-Grade Police Weapons

McLaughlin’s ask, which was passed by all except council member Cesar Zepeda who was absent, requires the department’s military use policy to include deploy, discharge, display in the definition of “use.”

Some of McLaughlin’s concerns with flash bangs comes from RPD’s use of them in comparison with larger cities. The Sacramento Police Department, for example, used flash bangs eight times in 2023, whereas RPD used them 38 times. Sacramento has over 400,000 more people than Richmond.

Lopez said Richmond uses a different tactic in certain situations than Sacramento, which accounts for the more frequent use of the flash bangs. By using the flash bangs, officers can use the distraction of the device to avoid a “violent confrontation.”

Part of the policy regarding flash bang usage will also be replaced for more clarity.

The phrase “When the SRT commander or SWAT commander deems (flash bang) use necessary” will be replaced with criteria to justify the use.

Jimenez asked that future annual reports include information about those “impacted by the use” of military equipment. Things like race, disability status and if someone is unhoused would be collected in instances where military equipment is used.

Jimenez’s request would require more staff that the department doesn’t have due to vacancies, according to RPD Police Chief Bisa French. She also questioned if HIPAA might be violated with the disclosure of someone’s disability status.

The department will return to the council at a later date to present the resources needed to implement Jimenez’s request.

No Comments

Post A Comment

Enjoy our content?