Urban Shield expected to draw police, protestors to Pleasanton this weekend

First responder training exercise, trade show return to fairgrounds

A four-day event beginning at the Alameda County Fairgrounds Friday (Sept. 9) is expected to bring hundreds of first responders -- as well as protestors -- to Pleasanton.

Urban Shield is returning to the Tri-Valley for the second consecutive year. Hosted by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, it consists of a vendor show and training exercise geared toward law enforcement and other emergency personnel. The event, which is in its 10th year, was held in Oakland before moving to Pleasanton.

Come kickoff next Friday morning, Urban Shield participants will take part in a two-day training exercise that encompasses 35 individual emergency response scenarios ranging from an active-shooter situation to the discovery of dangerous devices or materials.

As part of the exercise, participants will get an introduction to the latest technology being used in each scenario, and they'll debrief about how using that technology went afterward, according to the event website.

This year's Urban Shield will also zero in on earthquake preparedness through its "Yellow Command" exercise, which tests out emergency response in the event of a regional catastrophe.

In previous years, first responders have practiced how to implement response plans for a passenger train crash and a terrorist attack. Next weekend, they will test how to distribute bottled water to those affected by a hypothetical Bay Area earthquake.

"The event allows participating agencies a practical opportunity to evaluate their tactical team's level of preparedness and ability to perform a variety of intricate first responder operations," an excerpt from the Urban Shield website reads.

The vendor show will include distributors of everything from gamma radiation detection devices and tactical body armor to body cameras and guns. Representatives from corporations like Verizon, Motorola and Samsung will also take part.

First responder agencies throughout the Bay Area, as well some from outside California, will come to Pleasanton for Urban Shield. They will join eight officers from the East County Tactical Team, the shared SWAT team of the Livermore and Pleasanton police departments.

The Pleasanton Police Department has participated in Urban Shield since it started, according to chief Dave Spiller. Attendance is not mandatory, as agencies have to apply and space is limited.

For Spiller, Urban Shield provides an invaluable training opportunity that his department itself could not offer because of cost and labor limitations.

"It challenges members physically and mentally," Spiller said Wednesday. "It creates scenarios for the tactical operators where they're forced to deescalate scenarios, to problem solve. It's a training opportunity we can't replicate and I find a huge value in our participation."

While some like Spiller underscore the value of such training exercises, others want to see Urban Shield done away with.

A group called Stop Urban Shield plans to protest the event from 8 a.m. to noon Friday and is coordinating transportation for residents throughout California that want to go. As of press time Wednesday, more than 300 people had indicated they were attending the protest on the group's Facebook event page. The group has protested Urban Shield in prior years, as well.

In an explanation about the event, protest organizers wrote that their goal was to end Urban Shield for good.

"(Urban Shield) consists of extremely militarized policing trainings and war games that only seek to expand the power of law enforcement over our communities," an excerpt from the social media post reads. "As we continue to face and witness the increased militarization and violence of policing, we must resist programs like Urban Shield, and demand the resources that build our self-determination."

Stop Urban Shield and Alameda County Sheriff's Office representatives did not return a request for comment before press time.

Regarding Stop Urban Shield's stance, Spiller said he would be disappointed if Urban Shield ceased to exist. He added that the scenarios officers run through during the training exercise include practicing opportunities for deescalating situations and saving lives.

"SWAT in and of itself is not a life-taking deployment of our personnel -- it's a life-saving resource," Spiller said.

"(Urban Shield) is a large-scale opportunity for first responders to face what complexities we're experiencing throughout the country," he added. "No one wants to think anything bad is going to happen in Pleasanton, but as police chief I want our officers to be as prepared as possible, and that's why we participate."

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9 people like this
Posted by kt
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2016 at 12:09 pm

2 cents:
What a complex issue. I agree with both sides. Where are the resources and/or bottom up surge to provide "build our self-determination"? Can those be included in the UrbanShield program...even a little for this first year? It'd be a good step in a much needed direction.
There doesn't have to be "sides", there can be the middle way and effort towards getting there.

28 people like this
Posted by kate
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Sep 6, 2016 at 10:01 am

Until YOU walk in a cops shoes do not criticize him or her.

12 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Sep 6, 2016 at 10:47 am

I would think these groups could work towards common goals; the point for both is to improve how the police interact with the public. There is no reason their objectives could not be aligned.

20 people like this
Posted by HT
a resident of Danbury Park
on Sep 6, 2016 at 2:56 pm

HT is a registered user.

Police, First responders: You have my support. As a member of the law abiding public, I want to honor those that put their lives on the line to keep us safe from a variety of threats. I am glad that they have proper training to learn how to handle these types of emergency situations. If these protesters would be part of the solution, instead of protesting, we could have them participate in training and testimonies on how to better interact with the public. All they are doing is scaring off good cops or good people who would want to become cops who don't want to be harassed for the job of protecting the innocent. Instead their intimidation techniques make the good cops want to get out of the profession and make the bad cops more entrenched in their macho position. And don't forget this Urban Shield is for first responders. Its not all about cops. Protesters, rethink your position and be part of the solution!

22 people like this
Posted by Joyce & Adam
a resident of Mohr Park
on Sep 6, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Pleasanton is about to become the safest place in the Bay Area for a few days. We welcome all of those who protect and serve to our lovely town!

8 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Amador Estates
on Sep 7, 2016 at 11:30 am

I'm just confused why people protest the "militarization" of police. Patrol officers aren't driving around in tanks. Armored vehicle and SWAT teams are resources to keep us safe from serious threats so the way I see it, you would support that unless you yourself were on the side of those that threaten us. And if that's the case, who cares about your opinion...

2 people like this
Posted by john
a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Sep 8, 2016 at 7:07 am

As long as the protesters don't trash or vandalize, and speak up if they see someone doing so, no problem with their protesting.

1 person likes this
Posted by sumati
a resident of Kolb Ranch Estates
on Sep 8, 2016 at 10:21 am

sumati is a registered user.

Our police, fire and emergency response teams are dedicated, professional people who put themselves in harms way for our sake. However stating "Until YOU walk in a cops shoes do not criticize him or her." and throwing down the mike ? Well if we use that sort of logic we should not criticize politicians, doctors, black lives matters or anyone for that matter... a citizenry has a responsibility to review police actions just as much as we have a responsibility to review our politicians actions. Lets have a rational discourse rather than trite expressions.

2 people like this
Posted by smiling
a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 8, 2016 at 4:56 pm

I am happy to host them and would like our first responders to be prepared for extraordinary events that this training apparently brings. I bet something like this helped with the Amtrak derailment in Niles a while back. I am glad and hope Chief Spiller doesn't give in to 300 non-residents who come to protest and keeps the protection of his residents first and foremost. Welcome to Pleasanton!

Like this comment
Posted by gram5x5
a resident of Castlewood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

Everyone says they need more training....well here you go. So frustrating. Start working together and maybe change can happen. Its the mentality of "damn the man" and its obnoxious

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