A tactical training program coming to Alameda County in September has earned the ire of some Bay Area residents.
Urban Shield comes here once a year and first responders, including police, fire, SWAT teams, train for emergencies and disasters. However, a local group is resisting, convinced that the program promotes violence in the community.
Dozens of people packed the East Bay Media Center in Berkeley Friday to disucss banning Urban Shield from the Bay Area.
“Urban shield does not train people and treat people in terms of health and well-being,” said Lara Kiswani with the Stop Urban Shielf Coalition. “It trains people to treat people as enemy combatants.”
That belief draws hundreds of protesters to the law enforcement training program every year.
It brought Matt Chang to the meeting in Berkeley Friday. His brother, Errol Chang, was shot and killed by law enforcement officials in Pacifica in March 2014.
“He was in the midst of a crisis and instead of bringing in mental health professionals, he was shot with an AR-15 rifle,” Matt Chang said.
Several coalitions around the Bay Area believe Urban Shield promotes the militarization of police here and around the country.
“It epitomizes militarization, it epitomizes police brutality,” Kiswani said.
Urban Shield’s organizers disagree. Spokesman J.D. Nelson said the conference is designed to train and prepare police, fire and medical personnel to solve problems.
“If you wait for disaster to strike before you prepare, you are too late,” he said.
Matt Chang, however, believes law enforcement wasn’t adequately prepared to respond to his brother.
“Treating someone with mental illness that’s having an episode like a terrorist is not right,” he stressed.
Chang said the San Mateo County District Attorney decided the fatal shooting of his brother was justified, but a civil law suit is pending.