Urban Shield: Training For A World We Don’t Want To Live In
September 26, 2016 (Fault Lines) — This month, the Alameda County, California Sheriff’s Department hosted the annual trade show and training marathon known as Urban Shield. Even though there was a virtual reporting blackout of the significant local protests by bay area media outlets, the affluent and generally quiet community of Pleasanton felt the effects of several hundred protesters.
In past years, the event was held in Oakland, but activists and local outrage booted it to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton where temperatures this time of year often reach 100 degrees.
Urban Shield bills itself as: “Intense training for intense times,” and claims it has “grown into a comprehensive, full-scale regional preparedness exercise.” However, looking at the trade show offerings and training exercises, the event seems to be focused on destruction of potential terrorist attackers and the military grade hardware with which to accomplish this task.
The vendor directory for this year’s event can give you an idea. Heavy on military-type weapons, surveillance and protective gear, uniforms, armor; even the medical ware descriptions are steeped in military jargon. While there were credit Unions and other innocuous services, such as lighting for emergency vehicles included, the general atmosphere was mostly SWAT-like and aimed at people who love guns and dressing up. One of the vendors, MissionX, offers “Adventure Holidays.” So while you are waiting for the next big terrorist attack you can retire to Jordan for a leisurely vacation consisting of:
Movement by camel.
Shelter, fire making and cooking skills.
Water location/storage, solar still.
TraumaFX manufactures gruesome training mannequins crammed with special effects so they bleed more realistically. Are they more effective than a non-bleeding dummy? Who knows? The might have an effect on junior high school kids taking a driver’s education course.
The t-shirts on sale at the event also offer a hint to the mindset of the attendees with slogans like:
Black rifles matter, Guns and coffee, Let me die in a pile of empty brass, Double tap garage; full service, This is my peace sign (depicting a rifle sight).
The folks at “Stop Urban Shield” have their own feelings about the event. They feel it’s created in order for cops:
(T)o learn how to better repress, criminalize, and militarize our communities. Urban Shield was created by Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern in 2007, and has been held in Alameda County every year since. The county claims that because it is in a budget shortfall, hosting Urban Shield is necessary to provide training for “public safety.” However, we know this is merely an excuse to expand the power of policing. Militarized trainings, warfare technology, and repressive tactics are the opposite of “public safety training.”
Looking at the Urban Shield website, it’s clear that the event is focused on people running around with guns, shooting to kill. The agencies that don’t have weapons as a primary tool such as medical and fire are there to support the people with guns in what they call “real world medical problems that occur during the event.” Over at Fusion, Mary Noble points out that of the 36 exercises held at the event, 26 involved lethal force.
It’s good to be prepared, even for something that has never happened before, but the skills that were sharpened at this event will more likely be used by SWAT teams serving warrants, often on homes with children present, or a grandpa watching baseball in his pajamas. No mention on the Urban Shield website about an exercise in getting the address right or checking for the presence of children.
It’s all about destruction, ironically in the name of “public safety.”
Back in 1989 Northern California experienced a “real world” event called an earthquake. There wasn’t much call for “first responders” to whip out heavy military gear and shoot at people. Since a major fault runs right through this neck of the woods and scientists are always pointing out how we are due for another, it seems practical for law enforcement agencies to be training for such a possibility. There should be more events like the Golden Guardian exercise, where cops could learn really useful skills like making sandwiches for hungry people, or locating and protecting water sources; maybe even building a shelter or two.
That’s “real world” public safety. You have to take your finger off the trigger to accomplish that.