Category Archives: City Council meetings

Why Berkeley Should Not Participate in Urban Shield Vendor Show and Tactical Exercises

From the Berkeley Daily Planet
Councilmember Kate Harrison
Saturday June 23, 2018 – 01:02:00 PM
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In 1990, the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) engaged in one of the most successful hostage rescue operations in history: Henry’s Hostage Crisis. This was not a case of foreign terrorism. The attacker was just 29 when he obtained three guns and took 33 people hostage. The BPD’s measured response to the situation was executed with textbook perfection. Their actions earned the BPD national acclaim, a legacy that our officers live up to each day.

Decades later, we see the BPD participating in a new and altogether different style of training — Urban Shield, a set of war games, tactical exercises, and weapons expos designed around a Bush-era counter-terrorism agenda. Using millions of dollars in Department of Homeland Security funding, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office puts on 48 hours of tactical anti-terrorism exercises for federal and local departments. The only way to get full points in the competition is through full escalation of force. In a real-world hostage situation at Children’s Hospital in 2010, officers successfully resolved the crisis without loss of life but in an Urban Shield hostage scenario based on the event, teams “won” by escalating and killing the perpetrators.

Far from this real life example, many scenarios at Urban Shield are improbable and are built around military-grade technology featured by for-profit companies in the vender expo. Take one of last year’s exercises, supposedly based on the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Designed by Execushield, the sensationalized scenario had officers use Navy-grade aquatic raiding craft to kill members of a Hezbollah terrorist group, which had crossed the US border from South America to set up an armed encampment in a wooded cabin near a reservoir in Livermore. More than just improbable, the exercise bore almost no relationship to the Mumbai attacks, which featured multiple shootings and bomb threats distributed across multiple days and urban locations.

Berkeley can and should do better than Urban Shield. After months of subcommittee meetings including the Police Chief and presentations from the SRT team (Berkeley’s SWAT), the Council’s Urban Shield Subcommittee recommended on June 4th that the BPD suspend participation for the 2018 vendor expo and tactical exercises until revisions are made to the program. Berkeley is not pulling out of Urban Shield entirely. Certain modules of this year’s Urban Shield — like the Emergency Operations Center exercises and the community fair – will focus on mass care and casualty. I encourage the BPD to attend these modules.

The Urban Shield program does not reflect our needs. In the past decade, rather than confronting terrorist threats, the police department has trended toward facing high-risk search, arrest warrant services, patrol support, and crowd management. The tactical exercises at Urban Shield do not focus on these activities but instead on politically-motivated mass violence, obscuring the principle of de-escalation in community crime encounters. Urban Shield squanders resources that could be used for pressing community concerns. Going forward, we propose that Urban Shield focus on much more likely crises such as earthquakes and the 1991 Oakland fire.

Moreover, the Urban Shield competition and expo don’t reflect our values as a community. Take ICE’s involvement in Urban Shield. Alameda is a Sanctuary County and Berkeley was the first Sanctuary City in the nation; even so, Urban Shield has stubbornly continued to host ICE, forcing our officers to exercise alongside a group that clearly stands against our city’s commitment to justice. In 2017, Urban Shield hosted the far-right Oath Keepers, a fundamentalist vigilante organization that provides security for white supremacist events like last year’s protests in Berkeley. Additionally, the exercises reinforce implicit racial biases against black and brown people in their representation within the program, expressing what Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty calls racist undertones. Berkeley is against full escalation and the unnecessary use of force by officers — yet Urban Shield encourages officers to escalate.

Reform from within is no longer realistic. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors put guidelines in place that claimed to reform the event. Last year saw the Oath Keepers, ICE and surveillance firms participating anyway. Only some of the guidelines have been upheld and only after a community member brought violations to the attention of the Board, when the Sheriff signed a contract with a vendor that engages in blatant racial stereotyping.

Urban Shield is not salvageable through our involvement because Berkeley and the BPD have no input into it. Many of its failures could have been avoided if local input was considered. Outsourcing public safety training without local input is dangerous, and Urban Shield has refused to listen to the communities it is meant to protect.

Our officers need even more training in everyday emergency response and disaster preparedness. Lasts week’s shooting in South Berkeley shows this. The shooting was not by a terrorist or active shooter, but rather against a tenant by his landlord. The BPD used medical techniques taught to them at ongoing Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative trainings. More funding could be allocated to these if Urban Shield did not absorb $1.5 million of the $5 million annual grant.

Reforming Urban Shield has been an exercise in futility for the community and the city. While the discussion continues, it is time to throw the full weight of our community into this withdrawal, aligning our community preparedness with our needs and values while supporting our officers as they take this brave step away from Urban Shield and what it represents.

lfranklin

June 9, 2016

 

 

Berkeley Citizens Action – June Newsletter

Competing Minimum Wage proposals, Police Review Commission with teeth and more.  Location: Council Chambers, 2135 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Competing Minimum Wage measures on the November Ballot?
After years of intense debate on minimum wage, we face a chance of having two competing minimum wage ballot measures this November. After a resident initiated measure, the Council majority placed a competing measure that will likely cause serious voter confusion and lead to the failure of increasing to an equitable minimum wage.

Kriss Worthington writes that he has proposed for the June 14th Council meeting that Council adopt its own minimum wage proposal as an ordinance rather than create voter confusion in November. 

Mike Donaldson from SEIU and the Central Labor Council has asked for support from BCA member for their minimum wage initiative, which would lift the minimum wage to $15 on October 1st, 2017. He explains that their measure means minimum  of more than $3,000 a year in income for a full-time worker, more sick leave, fewer restrictions, better wage theft protections, more income for youth, less confusion, and does not allow the City Council to arbitrarily change provisions. Attached please find links to the minimum wage flyer for June 14th council meeting and their community minimum wage initiative.

Other items of interest on the June 14 docket:
33.  Petition President Barack Obama to Grant Clemency to Leonard Peltier
35.  Honor the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant for its 3000th Asylum Grant
50.  Ballot Measure to Lower the Voting Age of School Board Elections to Sixteen
   …and many more!

Please attend June 14, but don’t wait until then to contact the mayor and council about items you support or oppose on the council agenda: Here is the link to the city council agenda for next Tuesday, and the emails for council and city clerk: council@cityofberkeley.infoclerk@cityofberkeley.info

Game-changer for police accountability in Berkeley?

Submitted by George Lippman
Item 52, from Kriss Worthington is a proposal for a November ballot initiative to establish a true Police Commission with teeth. Unlike the current Police Review Commission, the new body would have full oversight powers over the BPD. Location:  2134 MLK Jr. Way, Berkeley. Click here to see the proposal

Item 52 would refer the current Oakland community proposal for a similar Police Commission to the city manager to draft a charter amendment to be considered by the voters. There is not yet Berkeley-specific language, and the floor is open for your ideas.

Please review the item in the agenda packet including the Oakland language and come out June 14 to voice your support, giving input into how the Commission should function.

You might consider these questions:
* How is the current role of the PRC insufficient to provide oversight and transparency for Berkeley police?
* Would the Oakland model provide sufficient independence for the commission?
* Is the Selection Panel described in the model ordinance the appropriate way to select some of the commissioners?
* Are the scope and procedures of investigations appropriate?

Beyond the June 14 meeting, if the referral does pass, I believe there will have to be a second vote (July?) to review the City Manager’s language and decide whether to put it on the November ballot.  There will be a need for community mobilization at that point, and for a strong campaign through the fall to win the vote.

Other upcoming accountability initiatives:
*  Racial profiling:  new statistics from this year have been released by the BPD which shows that the biased patterns revealed last year continue into 2016.  The PRC has established a subcommittee to look into this issue, and community people are invited to participate.
*  Body cameras:  new policy draft will be finalized at the June 8 PRC meeting, 7pm, South Berkeley Senior Center.
*  Crowd control:  ongoing PRC subcommittee meetings on use of force, mutual aid, etc.
*  Privacy/surveillance ordinance, using the ACLU template as modified for Berkeley (as in Oakland, Richmond, Santa Clara County etc.)