By Laura Haefeli

LINCOLN (CBS13) — A new California law requires law enforcement and state agencies to get permission from their governing bodies to purchase and use “military equipment.”

That’s a broad category, according to one local police chief who said the approval process could get them into trouble in the line of duty.

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“My priority is to save lives,” said Lincoln Police Chief Matt Alves, who oversees 30 police officers and a small arsenal of cop cars and equipment.

Lincoln police rely heavily on their less-than-lethal weapons but a new law, AB 481, now requires departments to get “military equipment” approved before it’s allowed to be used.

“The breadth of the type of items that are included under military equipment is a bit excessive,” Chief Alves said.

But what doesn’t fall under military equipment? Handguns. So what if the city council decides not to approve the less-than-lethal equipment now considered military grade?

“If we have a council that does not want us to have this, we have very limited options to resolve a situation up to and including lethal force,” Chief Alves said.

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The Lincoln City Council did approve all equipment Chief Alves presented during a city council meeting this week only after he was questioned by councilmembers and the public.

“Just curious, is there a special location to safely store these items to make sure they don’t fall in the wrong hands?” one Lincoln resident asked during the meeting.

Chief Alves said the police department has secure lockups for the equipment.

“If a city was against these for whatever reason or weren’t aware how well they can be used to protect life, then that law enforcement agency wouldn’t be able to use those devices,” he said.

Though Chief Alves accepts the new law and agrees with its intention, including preventing over-militarized police departments, he says the term military equipment should be a bit more specific.

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After garnering permission from the city council, police departments will have to report any and all use of each piece of military equipment every year, while permission and the reporting will be an annual requirement.