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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Do Emeryville Police Need AR-15 Assault Rifles?

Where's the Public Debate About the Militarization of Emeryville's Police?

The Colt AR-15 Assault Rifle
Carried by Emeryville police
and banned by Congress.
The recent shooting of Yuvette Henderson from an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle by the Emeryville Police Department begs the question; why are Emeryville police officers driving around our town with these rifles, the same guns banned by the United States Congress in 1994's Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  Disturbingly, the Emeryville Police Department has followed the nation-wide trend of the militarization of police weaponry and like within the rest of the nation, this has happened without a public debate.
The shooting of Ms Henderson is vexing and makes reasonable people note there was a time, not long ago, when our Emeryville police didn't carry assault weapons...then at some point these military style weapons were quietly issued.  The public was never consulted or even notified of this substantial increase in the potential lethality of the weaponry if not the culture at our police department.
In the wake of the killing of a citizen by the Emeryville Police Department with one of these new rifles and with a new chief of police, Jennifer Tejada bringing substantive administrative change, now is the time for the necessary public debate about the militarization of our Emeryville police.

'War on Police' a Right Wing Meme 
Police work is getting safer over time.
In fact it's never been safer than today.
'War on Police'?
Unfortunately, there exists a ready and pat answer from many of the nation's chiefs of police about the rising militarization of police in America and it comes in the form of a false meme about a rising danger to police from criminal's use of increased fire power, what has been referred to as a "war on police".   To the extent that our new Chief of Police may use this fatuous argument, the people of Emeryville stand ready to refute it.  There is no war on police.  In fact the reality is quite the opposite.  Every study conducted on the safety of police work is definitive; it's a safe profession and it's getting safer over time.  Police work doesn't even make it into the 10 deadliest professions in America.  Actuarial studies show construction laborers as facing more deadly threats than cops do.

The 10 Deadliest Jobs: Deaths per 100,000
  1. Logging workers: 128.8
  2. Fishers and related fishing workers: 117
  3. Aircraft pilot and flight engineers: 53.4
  4. Roofers: 40.5
  5. Structural iron and steel workers: 37
  6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors: 27.1
  7. Electrical power-line installers and repairers: 23
  8. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers: 22.1
  9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers: 21.3
  10. Construction laborers: 17.4
Out of approximately one million police and law enforcement personnel, with 126 deaths per year, the death rate for police is 12.6 per hundred thousand.
  • From 1970 to 1980 police deaths averaged 231 per year.
  • 1980 to 1989: police deaths averaged 190.7
  • 1990 to 1999: police deaths averaged 161.5
  • 2000 to 2009: police deaths averaged 165
  • 2013 to 2014: police deaths averaged 113.

Further, many chiefs of police and gun lobbying groups nation-wide have used the larger debate on assault weapons to take away from the demonstrative lethality of these AR-15 rifles.  This has come in a denial that the word "assault" be applied to AR-15s from these quarters.  Those loudly asserting the word assault should not be applied to these guns are entitled to their opinions but to use this denial as an attempt to discredit the special deadly effect as recognized by the Congress these weapons have, is not going to be allowed in our local public debate.  We accept what our President and our Congress said about the special lethality of these AR-15 rifles and we hope our new Chief of Police doesn't add her name to those attempting to take anything away from our legitimate concerns regarding these weapons.

Police in Emeryville are well compensated.  They are protected by an able union, their wage provides enough for them to comfortably buy a house in the Bay Area and they receive a generous package of benefits from the people of Emeryville, and that's the way it should be.  Implicit in the bargain is that police officers accept the risk that comes with the job.  We don't want to hear that in order to keep our forces safe, we need to engage in an ever escalating arms race with criminals.  Where do we go next with that argument, rocket propelled grenade launchers?  Are we soon to see RPGs brandished by Emeryville Police?  We hope we don't have to make these absurd points as we begin our public debate.
Are these weapons that the Congress and the President of the United States find so deadly that they were specifically called out in 1994's ban, something we want our Emeryville police driving around with?  Back when police work was much more dangerous than it is today, Emeryville police were armed with their Police Department issued side arms, not assault rifles.  The force could have been issued military style assault weapons back then but in those days, that level of lethality was considered unreasonable.  Why is it an emergency now for this militarization of our police? 

Our police force is ours; it belongs to us.  Are we at least owed a chance to weigh in on this move towards the militarization of our police?
We want answers: why are these military assault weapons necessary for our police to drive around with?  Why has it been considered good policy up until now to leave us in the dark about this?

It's better late than never, so let's start the public debate about the militarization of the Emeryville Police Department now.  We, the people of Emeryville, the owners of the police force, have a right to say how our police are used.
From Newsweek 


  1. Great article, Brian. I share your concerns. I think this needs to be approached on two fronts: First, as you argue, the Police Chief, Council, and Administrator need to have some form of public dialog on whether such lethal weapons are appropriate in this city. My major concern is stray bullets - the penetration from a .223 assault rifle bullet is far greater than from a 9mm or even .40 caliber service pistol. I don't want my kid, sleeping near the window in Andante facing San Pablo, to be killed by a stray bullet of any kind, much less from a police weapon.

    Secondly, working from the bottom, there need to be published guidelines on when use of such weapons is appropriate. Rules of engagement, so to speak. And all those rifles/assault weapons need to be "sealed" in such a way that their removal for use can be confirmed - in Los Angeles, when I was growing up, police were notorious for brandishing shotguns to intimidate individuals and crowds, to the point where the weapons had to be sealed and any breaking of the seal had to be written up by the officer detailing the reasons.

    I'm grateful that our local police still have some Mayberry "feel" to them, and spend some time each morning at Anna Yates to watch our kids but, yeah, the "militarization" of our police, vs. making them "community friendly" is something we have to watch out for.

  2. Yes, we need public debate on the assault weapons in the hands of the
    Emeryville Police, and its apparent militarization. I heard the New
    Police Chief (Tejada) defend the EPD at a meeting of the Emeryville
    Commission on Aging, saying it was NOT militarized and that they did not
    have assault weapons. Is all this semantics? Are we justified in our
    concerns? * WE NEED THIS ISSUE DEBATED*.

    Richard Ambro

    1. Thanks Richard for telling us about Chief Tejada's opinion that AR-15's are not assault weapons. If this is truly her view, she's going against the entire Congress of the United States and former President Clinton. We're going to need to hear her say she thinks there's nothing special about AR-15's beyond the sidearms the police carry. How was the Congress and President Clinton wrong? The more pressing question: is Ms Tejada going to attempt to take away from citizen's legitimate concerns? That's what needs to be fleshed out in a debate. Let's hope the debate won't be shut down.

  3. How dare you criticize our Chief of Police. Have you ever considered that she may be privy to information that you and I are not aware of? It is clear that Chief Tejada has made her decision after conducting exhaustive research (binge-watching The Walking Dead). These civilian M-16s will safeguard Emeryville during the coming zombie apocalypse.