Alameda County supervisors said on Tuesday that they continue to support the sheriff's office's Urban Shield first-responder training exercise that has taken place in Pleasanton despite strong opposition by a large group of activists who came to their meeting.
Some of the dozens of speakers at a three-hour hearing on the law enforcement training exercise the sheriff's office has hosted every year since 2007 alleged that it is racist and xenophobic and has a negative impact on communities of color and immigrants.
Board members said they share some of the speakers' concerns but said they will continue to back it as long as Sheriff Gregory Ahern keeps making efforts to improve it and lets them monitor it closely.
"I initially was not a supporter of Urban Shield but I became a fan and a supporter over time," Supervisor Nate Miley said.
Miley said of Ahern, "This man is not perfect but no one is perfect. We just need to weed out the toxic elements in Urban Shield."
Board members voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of an 18-member panel of community members, health officials and educational officials that was formed last year to address the community's concerns about Urban Shield.
The board also approved an amendment by Supervisor Wilma Chan to add a recommendation proposed by members of Stop Urban Shield who oppose the training exercise and were on the task force.
That recommendation says, "Alameda County and multi-jurisdictional emergency preparedness shall dedicate as many or more resources and time to prevention of and recovery from critical emergencies than to respond to such emergencies."
It's expected that a large number of activists who oppose Urban Shield will show up at the board's meeting on March 13, when it will consider whether to accept about $5 million in Urban Shield Area Security Initiative funds so the sheriff can host the training exercise again in September 2019.
Those funds originate from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said the sheriff's office already has funding in place to host the exercise this September.