Urban Shield is a militarized policing, weapons expo and SWAT training and competition held annually in the Bay Area since 2007. It is the brainchild of Alameda County's Sheriff Greg Ahern, funded through Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Not surprisingly, it has been the target of activists for about as long as it has existed.
Amid increasingly vocal and militant opposition, the City of Oakland decided in 2014 that it would no longer allow the event to be staged in its downtown convention center. After this small but symbolically significant victory, anti police-militarization activists aimed their (purely metaphorical) sights on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the body that is supposed to have oversight over the the Alameda County Sheriff's budget, and which must annually approve the receipt of money from UASI to stage Urban Shield.
Years of meetings, public testimony, continued demonstrations and two task forces appointed by the Board of Supervisors later, the issue has come to a head. The latest task force, created a year ago and charged by the Board to come up with recommendations to “end Urban Shield as it is currently constituted,” finished its work in January, 2019 and their recommendations will be heard this coming Tuesday, February 26th.
No one knows what will happen. The Sheriff will be defending his “baby” with, likely, both a symbolic and actual show of force (one of his tactics at previous hearings has often been to have rows of deputies and other law enforcement personnel from around the county occupy in uniform and with firearms displayed the front rows of the chambers).
Those who have been fighting the battle against militarized and racist policing in the Bay Area for all these years, epitomized by Urban Shield, will be demanding that the task force's recommendations be accepted. These recommendations really would “end Urban Shield as it is currently constituted” because they would refocus the entire extravaganza on coordinated emergency preparedness, end the weapons expo and significantly reduce the SWAT-like aspects of police training in favor of different (and, many say, more realistic and useful) trainings for a wider range of police.
No sensible person can reasonably deny that the main threats to people in the Bay Area, and especially the East Bay, are earthquakes and wildfires. While terrorists could certainly be a concern, the prospect of fire raining down from the Berkeley and Oakland hills, spreading rapidly and uncontrollably, as we've now seen in two successive fire seasons elsewhere California, is, when weighed rationally, of far more importance to prepare for.
Ultimately, this realization forms the basis of the task force's recommendations, and that and creating effective coordinated response is central to the reorganization proposal. And is why the recs should be accepted by the Board of Supervisors in full.
If you are anywhere in the Bay Area you are affected, because many police forces and other emergency responders around the Bay do now participate or could potentially participate in a reborn Urban Shield, resulting in more effective and coordinated emergency preparedness.
If you live in Alameda County you have a representative on the Board of Supervisors (here's a map of the district boundaries).
District 1, Supervisor Haggerty: 510-272-6691
District 2, Supervisor Richard Valle: 510-272-6692
District 3, Supervisor Wilma Chan: 510-272-6693
District 4, Supervisor Nate Miley: 510-272-6694
District 5, Supervisor Keith Carson: 510-272-6695
No matter where you live you can write them a message urging them to support the task force's recommendations.
This handy tool will do all the grunt work for you:
And join us at the Alameda Administration Building on February 26 at 10:45am to end Urban Shield “as it is currently constituted.”
Board of Supervisors – Alameda County
Alameda County Administration Building
1221 Oak Street, 5th Floor