Descending on Oakland, California, tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 25th, 2013, and in town through the weekend, are thousands of people who subsist on theft under the guise of protection. Their goal? To test out new hardware, train for the bogeyman of terrorism, and perpetuate the fear-paradigm upon which their relevancy is directly tied. The event is called Urban Shield, and not all aware of the training and trade show believe it a good thing, as its organizers contest.
I learned of Urban Shield last week when in Oakland – the fourth stop on the Police Accountability Tour.
Funded by a Department of Homeland Security grant, which notes as its purpose to “purchase surveillance equipment, weapons, and advanced training for law enforcement personnel in order to heighten security,” present at the event will be individuals who work at a few dozen federal outfits such as FBI, DEA, and ATF, over 100 police, fire and sheriff outfits, and an even longer list of so called “Public/Private Partners”.
In a scene reminiscent of lobbyists in DC wining and dining political actors in the hope of landing a big contract on the dime of others, one of the “partners” of this Urban Shield – M11 Tactical, which profits by selling police outfits attire and accessories, is footing the lunch bill for attendees. How gracious.
The event is hosted by those at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
From the Urban Shield site:
Over 4,500 persons were involved in the event as participants, role players, volunteers, and observers. Early interest in the 2013 Urban Shield exercise indicates that the there will be more agencies participating this year. . . Throughout the duration of the full scale training exercise participating teams are provided with state of the art technology, tactically inserted into the scenarios, allowing teams to evaluate the products effectiveness and provide the vendors with essential critical feedback on their products
It’s unsurprising that many in Oakland don’t welcome the weekend foray. From the write-up Oakland Council Gets Earful Over ‘Urban Shield’ War Games by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston:
a group of activists from across Alameda County are raising cane about Oakland playing host to what they characterize as “war games.” At the council’s Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting in City Hall, community members surprised councilmembers during an otherwise routine approval of $200,000 in reimbursement to the fire department for its participation in the exercise. Opponents called Urban Shield a “militarized” training for police. . .
Andrea Pritchett, a founding member of Berkeley Copwatch, commented on Urban Shield’s melding of anti-terrorism and active shooter training with fire and rescue operations. “There’s a conflation between disaster preparedness and military war game scenarios,” Pritchett said.
While Urban Shield 2013 is designed to prepare first responders to better handle terrorist attacks and natural disasters, critics say it’s accelerating the militarization of local police departments — a trend they think helps explain the violent police response to the Occupy protests two years ago.
From the Urban Shield entry at Oakland Wiki:
In recent years, security forces from Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan have participated in Urban Shield. The competition consists of live-action scenarios such as hostage-holding terrorists, active gunmen, bomb threats, chemical weapons attacks, and catastrophic fires.
Is this sort of inter-departmental, top-down training necessary? Is the equipping of police outfits with paramilitary gear and hardware and mindsets really conducive to a free society? Are the threats cited as justification for the event and the move of police closer to soldiers legitimate?
And why is Oakland – a place where the police have been so consistently heavy-handed that it’s under the oversight of a federal judge – the place where it’s thought good to host such a conference? It’s like rewarding a bully with an ice cream – there’s no deterrent to stop the aggressive behavior and in fact events like this only reinforce the divide many who wear badges believe exists between themselves and “citizens” they claim to protect (though actions repeatedly show they’re trained to put themselves first, to shoot and ask questions later, to be sure to ‘get home to the fam’ rather than diffuse a situation).
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