ALCO BOARD OF SUEPRVISORS
After years of vehement opposition by progressive and minority groups, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon decided to end funding for Urban Shield after this year.
“Urban Shield ends at the conclusion of today’s vote,” said Alameda County Keith Carson, in making a motion to end the event, as it is current constituted, in 2019. The board voted, 4-1, to support funding the event this summer, with Supervisor Scott Haggerty voting no.
Carson’s proposal, however, does not definitively end the emergency training exercises, as many opponents demanded during Tuesday’s uncommonly long five-hour meeting. Instead, the board and the sheriff’s office will spend the next year in an effort to re-imagine the training exercise soiree.
A large demonstration preceded the hearing calling for the end of Urban Shield. Inside, some labelled Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern as racist, leading Carson to respond, “I don’t think the sheriff is a racist. We all have implicit bias. No one in here can cast a stone.”
The annual event now held in Pleasanton to train law enforcement from all over the state, country and world for emergency training operations was created by Ahern in 2007. But as instances of police brutality and increased militarization of local police have become lightning rods for strong resistance in the East Bay, the event, which also includes a trade show, has grown vastly unpopular. This same opposition hastened Urban Shield’s move in 2013 from downtown Oakland to its current site at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, in some ways, signaled early that the board’s historic support for backing expenditures by the sheriff’s office without much push back was in doubt. Chan initially offered taking the roughly $5.5 million in county funding and grants for Urban Shield and putting out the entire amount for bids.
Chan told Ahern the country is different than when Urban Shield was created. “Lots of great societal division and greater polarization” exists today, said Chan. “[Urban Shield] is viewed as a show of force in this atmosphere and is probably not the best way to please the community.”