Latest Urban Shield training covers crisis scenarios, draws more criticism from community activists
on September 13, 2018
Disaster response exercises in Alameda County held annually around the anniversary of the September 11 attacks draw first responders from all over the world to conduct realistic emergency training. The event, dubbed Urban Shield, prepares police, fire and emergency medical service (EMS) officers to work together in situations ranging from a 7.9 magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, to a concert shooting, to an airplane hijacking. Local emergency management officials credit past years’ training as invaluable to their responses to real-world events, such as the Ghost Ship fire.
But community activists worry that allowing police tactical teams to train using military-grade equipment and specialized tactics will result in law enforcement repression of minority communities and communities of color. Each year’s exercise is accompanied by protest, and this year, groups including the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Causa Justa and the Stop Urban Shield Coalition rallied to shut down the Urban Shield exercises once and for all.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors sided with protesters last March when they passed a motion 4-to-1, setting a mandate that the Sheriff of Alameda County work with civilian representatives from each district to plan next year’s exercises. But it remains unclear how much, if anything, will change, and whether changes to Urban Shield will affect public safety.
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