Press Release – Friday, March 15, 2019

Dublin – After the Alameda County Sheriff refused to back recommendations passed and reaffirmed by the County Board of Supervisors this past Tuesday, the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative Approval Authority (BAUASI) voted yesterday to redistribute funding for emergency preparedness trainings and exercises to various cities and counties in the region.

During the meeting, the BAUASI chair voiced support for the Alameda County’s Ad Hoc Committee and its recommendations, which seek to address Islamophobia and a culture of militarization in emergency preparedness exercises. County officials that were present at the meeting – except for the Sheriff’s Office – stood by the Board’s Tuesday vote. The BAUASI vote to reallocate funding debunks Sheriff Ahern’s baseless claims that his Supervisors’ support for the recommendations signaled an end for funding and emergency preparedness trainings.

“In light of the devastating attacks against the Muslim community in New Zealand, we are ever more determined to see through the development of emergency preparedness programs that are not steeped in the same Islamophobia of Urban Shield,” stated Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

Additionally, yesterday’s discussion and vote was another illustration that the Sheriff’s Office is more interested in pursuing its own interests rather than representing the will of Alameda County. The BAUASI vote was based on an assumption that Alameda County did not pass the Memorandum of Understanding – even though Supervisors did just that on Tuesday. Despite numerous representatives from the Alameda County Ad Hoc Committee and Supervisors’ offices stating the facts to BAUASI, the Sheriff’s Office refused to comply or back the county’s decisions.

“The Sheriff’s Office is simply wrong about the funding. It has been consistently wrong, and has misinformed the Board of Supervisors and now BAUASI that Alameda County’s vision for more expansive and demilitarized disaster response trainings will mean the end of trainings,” said Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “Unfortunately, because the Sheriff didn’t get his way, he’s now acting out and harming the interests of Alameda County. But with Bay Area UASI’s decision to reallocate funding, we are looking forward to seeing how emergency preparedness will be strengthened and redesigned to serve the Bay Area communities in a way that Urban Shield was never set up to do.”

Alameda County’s vision for a new way forward for disaster preparedness also received praise from other counties in the Bay Area. President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Norman Yee stated, “Having condemned the highly controversial Urban Shield program, I applaud our neighbors across the bay in Alameda County for their leadership in shifting the course away from militarization and towards emergency preparedness. This moves the whole Bay Area toward a vision of disaster response and resilience that is inclusive, transparent, and focused on communities, especially on those who are most vulnerable in the face of disasters. As Board president, I will work to ensure that San Francisco continues on this path in the next year.”

“I absolutely support emergency and disaster training, but my worry has been that our involvement in the Urban Shield program has also been about increased militarization of police forces,” commented San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “The decision of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors reflects a positive and responsible shift in prioritizing demilitarized emergency preparedness training.”

In 2020, BAUASI will seek to issue a new Request for Proposals for a regional exercise that prioritizes community participation and training, and more closely reflects Alameda County’s recommendations. Yet because of Sheriff Ahern’s unwillingness to accept that Urban Shield and its militarized model is a thing of the past, Santa Clara appears interested in stepping up as the county to run future exercises.

“Given what’s at stake, it’s unfortunate that the sheriff seems to be playing politics. Yet, we are still committed to supporting our Alameda County officials to implement robust emergency preparedness models for our communities and first responders,” said Isaac Ontiveros of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “As residents, we were excited for Alameda County to be the place where inclusive and sustainable training would be implemented. But we are committed to working with our decision makers to support their strong recommendations elsewhere in the Bay Area if the Sheriff remains unwilling to get with the program.”