News

Alameda County grand jury criticizes supervisors' handling of Urban Shield changes

'Mismanagement' results in shift of nearly $5 million from county

An Alameda County grand jury issued a report on Monday strongly criticizing the county Board of Supervisors for the way it handled the approval process of sweeping changes to the sheriff's controversial "Urban Shield" law enforcement training program.

The grand jury said in its annual report that the board's "mismanagement of the review process" caused the group that distributes federal grant money for emergency training programs to shift nearly $5 million in U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds away from Alameda County.

The panel said the result is "the loss of essential regional emergency preparedness training, leaving county residents less safe."

The sheriff's office started Urban Shield in 2007 because it believed the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, showed law enforcement agencies weren't well prepared for such attacks.

More than 100 agencies and thousands of people, including some from foreign countries, participated in past training programs, which were held each September.

But critics, including the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, have alleged that the training program is militaristic, racist and xenophobic, and has a negative impact on communities of color and immigrants.

A 4-1 Board of Supervisors majority agreed with many of the critics' complaints at a meeting in March 2018, when it voted to allow the exercise to continue in its old format for one final time last September but called for its format in 2019 and future years to focus more on training for natural disasters and less on terrorism and weapons vendors.

The board's March 2018 vote also called for forming an ad hoc committee on Urban Shield to offer a new vision and strategic approach for emergency management in the county.

But the grand jury report said, "The Board of Supervisors failed to provide clear and complete guidelines to the ad hoc committee, particularly in regard to making recommendations that are consistent with grant guidelines."

The panel said the sheriff's office repeatedly warned the committee that its recommendations for changing Urban Shield were inconsistent with the grant guidelines of the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), which require the teaching of skills to fight terrorism, including SWAT training.

The grand jury also said "almost all the appointed committee members held pre-established and intractable opinions about Urban Shield, making objective analysis difficult to impossible."

In addition, the panel alleged that the Board of Supervisors accepted the committee's recommendations "without the benefit of meaningful county staff review and county administrative officer approval."

The grand jury said, "Alameda County thus lost millions in federal funds, critical to the continued training of our first responders in increasingly volatile times."

In votes at meetings on Feb. 27 and March 12, supervisors approved most of the committee's 63 recommendations for changing Urban Shield.

Among those are eliminating military-type SWAT teams and competition from the annual training exercises, eliminating its weapons expo and vendor show component, getting rid of the "Urban Shield" label and evaluating law enforcement participants' compliance with their departments' use-of-force policies.

In response to the board's actions, UASI's board, comprised of representatives from 12 Northern California counties, voted on March 14 to shift the nearly $5 million in federal funding away from Alameda County.

— Bay City News Service

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Velio
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2019 at 11:48 am

How can it be racist or xenophobic and detrimental to communities of color. I thought that color didn't matter, aren't we all equqals in the eyes of God.
Just another idiotic decision by liberal justices.


3 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 25, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Velio,

1) The Stop Urban Shield Coalition said that, not a justice.

2) Whether you agree or not with the training, the preparation focus against terrorist attacks, and not other types of situations, has to do with race. Given what is labeled terrorism vs what is labeled "land right disputes" or similar definitely has to do with race. Having SWAT called in for more and more scenarios is racially influenced.

But the Grand Jury is trying to say this attempt to balance these ideas may have swung too far, and lack of direction towards other exercises cost the county money it could have used for any type of training.

3) The Alameda County Grand Jury is made up of citizens volunteering their time, not judges.


1 person likes this
Posted by ST
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:01 pm

I find it hysterical that 2 people "liked" Velio's comments.

The article clearly states "But critics, including the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, have alleged that the training program is militaristic, racist and xenophobic, and has a negative impact on communities of color and immigrants."

The Grand Jury (not justices) strongly criticizing the county Board of Supervisors for the way it handled the approval process of sweeping changes to the sheriff's controversial "Urban Shield" law enforcement training program.

Perhaps you should read more carefully before spouting off.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 25, 2019 at 3:53 pm

sjd:

Citizens that sever on grand jury are not volunteering their time.
They are selected for juror service, instructed to appear on specific date.

They are informed by the judge when they arrive in the courtroom, that some among them will be selected to serve on the Alameda County Grand Jury.




Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 25, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Michael Austin,

This article is talking about the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury, which is voluntary. Criminal proceedings are random, the Civil Grand Jury is a voluntary position.

You can find more information about the process, and read the report this article refers to, at this link:
Web Link



Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 25, 2019 at 7:01 pm

Civil grand juror candidates are generally recruited by a community leader, could be a council member, a county supervisor or an organization, or a neighbor, rarely is a citizen steeping up to volunteer his or her service for civil grand juror service. Once they agree to serve they are there for the duration. When I was selected to report, the judge did not identify the purpose was civil or criminal. The purpose was to select a "county grand jury". Perhaps, grand juror candidate may be selected from left over juror candidates not selected in the initial "first interview".


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