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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | U.S. | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Urban Shield: Abandoning Hope, Not Building Hope
In the wake of a massive mobilization against the Urban Shield weapons expo in Pleasanton on Friday, a newly published report authored by the Stop Urban Shield coalition illustrates the negative social and economic impacts of Urban Shield. The report also shows how the Alameda County Board of supervisors can take action to end the controversial program and instead fund programs less dominated by law enforcement.
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(Full Report: 10-page PDF)
For the past 10 years, Alameda County has invested the lion’s share of its disaster preparedness in the war games and trade expo called Urban Shield.
The Social Costs of Urban Shield
Emergency personnel such as EMTs and firefighters need training that advances their skills and readiness to handle the medical and mental health crises that make up the vast majority of emergencies in Alameda County. By prioritizing Urban Shield/Yellow Command as the dominant emergency response training, the County subjects emergency personnel to an orientation which suggests that every crisis could be a terrorist attack and must be handled with military-like mindset and possible force. Rather than receiving training to save lives, emergency personnel are taught to defer to law enforcement and follow the chain of command even when that might mean withholding care or treatment.
When law enforcement agents are called on to intervene in everyday situations of medical or mental health crisis, the results are often deadly, especially when the person in crisis is a person of color. Sending fully armed cops to act as health service providers creates situations that quickly become escalated and result in the deaths of community members, such as the recent killings of Luis Gongora and Mario Woods in San Francisco by SFPD just across the Bay from Alameda County. In Alameda County, two 2015 police shootings by the Oakland Police Department within a week of each other involved victims with histories of mental illness. Indeed across the country, examples such as the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April 2015 and Jason Harrison in Dallas in March 2015 reveal that an armed response to medical or mental health crisis results too often in the loss of life and trauma to communities and families.