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Urban Shield Committee approves recs to exclude SWAT, focus on de-escalation and disaster response
by Stop Urban Shield Coalition
Wednesday Jan 30th, 2019 10:40 PM
Replacing Urban Shield: County Committee approves recommendations to exclude SWAT, focus on de-escalation and community preparedness in future Bay Area disaster response programs
In what was its final meeting today, the Ad Hoc Committee on Urban Shield approved a report that includes strong recommendations for any future Alameda County disaster preparedness exercises that would be funded by the federal Urban Areas Security Initiative. The recommendations are now set to be reviewed and voted on by the county's Board of Supervisors. The Committee was convened in March 2018, following the Board's vote that "Urban Shield would be ended it as we know it" after 2018.

"The recommendations that the Ad Hoc Committee approved signal a desire for a decisive departure from the SWAT-centered, highly militarized emergency exercises that the Sheriff's Department has favored through its Urban Shield model," said John Lindsay Poland, who has served on the Committee. "The committee's recommendations ultimately reflect what community members, disaster survivors, and preparedness experts have voiced for years – that effective disaster preparedness is community-based, and centered on de-escalation rather than militarization."

Following the Board's decision to "end Urban Shield as currently constituted," the Committee's mandate was to come up with recommendations for UASI-funded exercises that would replace Urban Shield. Among the recommendations the Committee approved are:

· Eliminating the military-type SWAT teams and competition from the exercises

· Eliminating the weapons expo/vendor show component that puts gun manufacturers and private interests above the goals of whole community preparedness

· Ensuring that the majority of people responsible for implementing emergency response exercises are Fire and Emergency Managers and community organizations serving vulnerable populations, rather than being overrepresented by law enforcement

· Getting rid of the notorious “Urban Shield” label

· Evaluating law enforcement participants' compliance with their department's use-of-force policy

· Dedicating $5 million of funding for the Health Care Services Agency and Social Services Agency to carry out emergency preparedness training and exercises.

With Urban Shield effectively ended, Amber Piatt, a member of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition and a representative of the Public Health Justice Collective said, "County leaders took a bold and much needed step last year in ending this extremely violent and harmful program. Now they must make good on their promise and roll out true emergency preparedness initiatives for our region – ones that promote health and equity, and work with our communities, not against them."

The recommendations will be heard by the full Board on February 26, 2019.

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