LBPD Use of War Toys Questioned

Marshall Blesofsky

We mourn the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols. The response of law enforcement has been remarkable. Given that we live in the world’s greatest democracy and we are blessed with the First Amendment. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, a DC-based think tank, stated:

“As troubling as it is to see weapons of war being used this week in response to the constitutionally protected right to protest, research has also found that militarizing law enforcement leads to increased police killings – especially in Black communities.

And in the Memphis community where Tyre was murdered, militarized law enforcement is all too common. For example, from 1990-2020, Memphis PD received $2.27 million in military equipment.

While five police officers have been charged with Tyre’s murder, true justice will require fundamental change. The brutal murder of Tyre Nichols, the militarized response to protests around the country in its aftermath, and the long history of violence toward Black people at the hands of police are the result of policy choices – and we need systemic solutions.”

Most people don’t realize that over the past few years, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) has been buying military equipment from the US Government. Over a million dollars worth of equipment has been purchased. Some of this equipment is for crowd control and was used against peaceful demonstrators during the 2020 George Floyd demonstrations.

Most notable was Adolfo Guzman Lopez, a journalist who was covering the demonstration for a local public radio station. Adolfo is a Long Beach resident. He wore a vest, that said “Press.” He was struck in the neck by a Defense Tech 40 mm Exact Impact Sponge Munition shot out of a Defense Tech 40 mm Single Shot Launcher. These were bought from the military.

In their description of the “non-lethal” Projectile Defense Technology describes the projectile’s effectiveness as “both a psychological deterrent and physiological distraction, serving as a pain compliance device. Lopez was lucky because at 325 feet per second a direct hit on the Adam’s apple could have killed him.”

In September of 2021 the governor signed into law Assembly Bill 481. The purpose of the law is to inform the public about the acquisition and use of military equipment by local police forces. This includes the LBPD.

AB 481 actually states:

“The acquisition of military equipment and its deployment in our communities adversely impacts the public’s safety and welfare, including increased risk of civilian deaths, significant risks to civil rights, civil liberties and physical and psychological well-being and incurment of significant financial costs.

“Military equipment is more frequently deployed in low-income Black and Brown communities, meaning the risks and impacts of police militarization are experienced most acutely in marginalized communities.”

Last year the City Council unanimously voted to direct the city attorney to write an emergency ordinance to approve the purchase of these weapons. The meeting held on Yom Kippur the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. So, after 5 1/2 hours of waiting for this agenda item, the city manager was surprised. That there were actually people there to speak against the buying of military equipment. Representatives of. Filipino – US Solidarity Organization, Veterans for Peace, Long Beach Anti-Surveillance Coalition and Long Beach Area Peace Network spoke against these weapons of war.

Subsequently the city attorney wrote an ordinance to approve the acquisition of the military and surveillance equipment, which was passed unanimously.

The Long Beach Area Peace Network, one of the oldest peace organizations in California, began a campaign to inform the public about the militarization of the LBPD. At first our thoughts were somewhat unfocused. We produced a flyer for a community meeting hosted by Cindy Allen, the District 2 city councilor.

The message was clear:

“These weapons of war are not justifiable. Long Beach is not at war. Instead of making the LBPD into a military force, we want a police department that responds to the needs of the residents. This money should be spent on social services, housing the unhoused and jobs programs for our children.”

The crowd was mostly white people who lived in the neighborhood. They’re also generally older. Their concerns were mainly the unhouse people sleeping in their cars and the neighborhood streets. One homeowner was at his wits end because probably every few days he must clean up excrement from his alley.

The new chief of police, Wally Hebeish, is an articulate speaker and he stressed the need for the SWAT teams to have armored personal carriers, many assault rifles and loads of ammunition. But all the money spent will not take one unhoused person off the street.

According to the 2022 Homeless Point in Time Count, “Those living in encampments or on the street increased by 22% while those living in a vehicle was up by 380%. The number of people experiencing homelessness has increased by 123%”

The military equipment acquired by the LBPD is extensive and expensive. Is it armed personnel carrier is called the bearcat, which you could justify one of them for the SWAT teams. But Long Beach has three, each costing $2-300,000.

I spoke with the head of the Health Department and there are teams called the “reach teams.” I guess it’s short for outreach. These teams go into the community and reach out to homeless people. Some of them are mentally ill, some have medical conditions that made them homeless and some are victims of an economic system that cares only for the rich and the super-rich.

The list of military hardware is frightening. All of this equipment will not take one homeless person off the street. Yet the city is spending hundreds of thousands on this stuff that can only be used during national insurrection or civil war.

The last time we had uprisings was in 1965 during the Watts rebellion and the 1993 Rodney King uprising. During the George Floyd peaceful demonstrations in 2020, the LBPD used rubber bullets and military equipment on peaceful demonstrators.

In talking with a city manager from a city in Northern California, she said the police departments need their toys. “They can’t resist acquiring military equipment. It’s a common problem where the police departments feel they are fighting a war against the bottom of society.” That enemy is working class and people of color.

So, while the LBPD confronted the demonstrators, criminal elements in the rear of the demonstration looted stores on Pine Avenue. But that’s another story.

AB481 was written to protect the health and safety of the public. Public hearings needed to be held requiring citizen input. Instead the city manager has pushed this through council without proper notifications and public discussion.

Phillip Atiba Goff is CEO of the Center for Policing Equity and Chair of African American Studies at Yale University. He has been studying what can be done to reduce police violence. He says one option is to turn to police officers less often. Police are not the solution to crime. Police are what we do when we have run out of care for vulnerable people in our society.

We know about the culture of the police. As residents of Long Beach, we cannot just blow this off and say boys will be boys. The LBPD – at its very highest level down to the cop on the beat – want to have more toys to fight a war against the people they’re supposed to protect.

Long Beach must comply with AB481. Public hearings must be held. Shed light on the buying and using of military equipment against the public.



You are correct!! LB does not need these weapons and equipment of war. If you look around the country more and more officer are wearing these cargo/bullet proof vest load with lots magazine rounds on the outside of their uniforms, this looks like they in a war zone, it's ridiculous. I have not seen it in LB yet, thank god. These weapons & equipment is only because these cops wannabe special forces but didn't have the courage to join the military, so they because cops and want to be tough against the citizens of the LB.

Do we really need 50 cal rifles, machine guns and Armored vehicles on the street of LB? NO!! Police work has never been on the top list of most dangerous job! 99% of the people police deal with only need to file a crime report or need someone to talk to. If these cops are so afraid to contact people without these weapons of war then they need to find another job.

These same cops have fooled this incompetent council and some citizens into believing the streets of LBC are a war zone. LOL Most of the time I see groups of cops talking for hours at coffee shops and non violate call while getting paid WAY over 100 grand. They only act like they are in a war zone when it convenient for them (during contract negotiations). Stop these unnecessary pay rises and buying this equipment. Spend the money on fixing the streets and homeless issue. Don't get me wrong we do need the police, but we need oversight on how they work and what they get paid for doing, which is serving the public. Don't blow police work out of proportion lol

Are military weapons really what Long Beach taxpayers want their money spent on?

Obama started selling military weapons in the mid-west. The police are "suppose to protect us". not murder innocent people. I would expect this from the south and mid west, but not California and specially Long Beach. People wake up and stand up. The Right is getting more and more power. Read or watch the movie 1984.

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