The supervisors will be voting on revised recommendations from an ad hoc committee that has been meeting for months to evaluate the annual 12-county first responder training program and make recommendations. The board accepted 27 recommendations that Sheriff Greg Ahern said would not jeopardize the Urban Area Security Initiative grant from Homeland Security.
As sheriff’s department representatives had been telling committee members throughout the process, other recommendations would not meet federal guidelines and cause loss of the grant.
The committee met last week and, according to Sheriff’s Dept. Spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly, worked out some key points so it will come down to what the supervisors decide Tuesday because there’s hard deadline Thursday for the security grant. Alameda County has received the grant and coordinated the training for 12 years.
A small, but vocal group has been pushing the supervisors to downplay the law enforcement and first responder focus of the training and instead broaden it to include the entire community. They and the committee recommended the focus be on community preparedness for disasters such as earthquakes and major fires.
There’s no debate here that neighborhood and community planning and training for those natural disasters is important, but it’s very different than training first responders to deal with active shooter incidents or how to respond if terrorists took over the Bay Bridge or an airplane at Oakland International Airport.
Personally, I want first responder teams that have trained and practiced for such event instead of trying to figure out how to react on the fly.
One target of the training opponents is SWAT teams that often use military-type guns, helmets and armored vehicles thus “militarizing” the police. I can understand the concern in neighborhood incidents, but, in the event of an active shooter or worse, officers need the best available weapons and tools to handle the situation and remain safe.
There was a particularly silly recommendation that would praise law enforcement for de-escalating active shooter situation. Please. In some situations, where a shooter barricades himself in a room or building, de-escalation is possible. For most situation, police need to respond and take care of the situation. Remember the difference between Las Vegas where police sought out the shooter and the Parkland school shooting in Florida where the responding officer waited outside instead of entering the school.
The ad hoc group also wanted to remove the competitive aspect from the training—sounds like creeping snowflakes who want to give medals to everyone. Competition sharpens the edge, whether in business, in sports or in education. It is the American way.
Another sensitivity recommendation was to shift the date from September because it was too close to 911. Backward reasoning—we need to remember 911 and training close to that date is appropriate.
The county sheriff’s department, which acts as the fiscal agent for the training and receives $5.5 million to run it, wants to continue. Here’s hoping the majority of the board stands for public safety and first responders and votes to continue Urban Shield.