The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is hosting its last “Urban Shield” first-responder training exercise in its current format this weekend.
The sheriff’s office launched Urban Shield in 2007, following the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, which sheriff’s officials said showed that law enforcement agencies weren’t well prepared for such attacks.
More than 100 agencies and thousands of people, including some from foreign countries, have participated in past conferences.
But the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to end the training exercise in its current format at a meeting on March 27 at which the vast majority of more than 100 speakers alleged that it is militaristic, racist and xenophobic and has a negative impact on communities of color and immigrants.
The board called for the exercise’s format in 2019 and future years to focus more on training for natural disasters and less on terrorism and on weapons vendors.
Sheriff’s officials say the purpose of the conference is to train law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics on how to respond to natural disasters as well as man-made disasters such as explosions and mass shootings.
The sheriff’s office will host a regional preparedness training seminar and vendor show at the Alameda County Fairgrounds at 4501 Pleasanton Ave. in Pleasanton from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
Sheriff’s officials say the vendor show will feature the latest equipment and technology for first responders as well as guest speakers who were involved in fighting the devastating fires in the North Bay last year.
On Saturday, the sheriff’s office will host a “Community Preparedness Fair” at the 3 Crosses Church in Castro Valley in which the public can participate in training exercises.
More than 700 Alameda County residents attended the first community preparedness last year but the sheriff’s office said it hopes to surpass that number this year in an effort to educate more residents on preparedness for a regional emergency such as major earthquakes and fires.
A coalition of community groups called Stop Urban Shield that has fought for years to end the training program will hold a rally and mobilization in front of the sheriff’s office at 1401 Lakeside Drive in Oakland from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday to mark what it says is “the end of Urban Shield.”
Coalition members say the rally will include art, cultural performance, and powerful statements given by local and international disaster survivors, anti-militarization advocates, and emergency response experts speaking about community responses to natural disasters.
Coalition members say the rally also will demand that Urban Shield’s funding and resources be re-directed into community-based emergency preparedness programs “that are not based on racist propaganda or police militarization.”