California residents finally have a law designed to dismantle some of the secrecy around domestic acquisitions of warzone surveillance equipment.
The weapons of the United States military—drones, mobile command centers, sound cannons, and more—have been handed off to local law enforcement for years. The transfers have equipped police departments with the ability to redirect surveillance tools and the weapons of war designed for foreign adversaries toward often-faultless targets on U.S. soil. For police departments getting the gear, the process is often secretive. If you don’t think your local law enforcement really needs an aerial surveillance system, or for that matter an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle), there hasn’t been too much you can do to stop these from joining the arsenal at your neighborhood police department.
A.B. 481 , a new California state law, went into effect at the beginning of May 2022 for equipment already in agencies’ possession and at the beginning of this year for new technologies. It requires democratic control of whether California state or local law enforcement agencies can obtain or use military-grade tools, whether they are received from the federal government, purchased, or utilized via some other channel. Through their elected officials, the public can say “no” to military surveillance and other technology, and it won’t be allowed to come to town.