Urban Shield creates controversy


Allison Roullier

Pro Urban Shield student speaks out about his opinion at Las Positas College, Nov. 4

Madeline Berry, Staff members

Las Positas College’s Black Student Union brought together both Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the members of the Stop Urban Shield Coalition to discuss the impact of the Urban Shield program at their college on Nov. 4. 

Urban Shield, a coalition that trains Bay Area law enforcement using military tools and tactics, has created a large debate; the Urban Shield convention was recently held in Pleasanton in September. 

The end goal of the program is to improve response time and effectiveness. Some, like the Stop Urban Shield Coalition, feel that the program has made law enforcement more aggressive and militaristic. Urban Shield is a series of training simulations to become further equipped to respond to any act of terror. 

Nelson began by showing the audience a film, which started with the Sept. 11 attacks and continued with tragedies that have happened through the years, highlighting Hurricane Katrina, the shootings at Virginia Tech and Connecticut Elementary School, and the Boston Marathon bombing, among others in order to connect with the audience of what first responders do. 

He made a point from the movie as to why we should be prepared, saying, “If you’re waiting for the earthquake to come, it’s too late.”

Nelson is an Oakland native who has worked for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for 29 years, and is now the current press information officer for ACOS. 

Urban Shield members – firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians – prepare for these incidents with 48 straight hours of training for fire, police, and members of the medical field.

“It takes 48 hours for real help to get to your community from the federal government,” he said.

Lara Kiswani and Isaac Ontiveros of Stop Urban Shield responded to Nelson’s presentation with their own, which highlighted some reasons the group is against the program. 

First, they argue that Urban Shield encourages the trend and mentality of a militarized police force. Second, Urban Shield facilitates global systems of policing and surveillance. And third, Urban Shield targets Black and Brown individuals.  

“When police have more weapons, they use more weapons, and kill more people,” Kiswani said.

Kiswani also stated that this conference has a vendor show to promote new advanced arms and equipment from all over the world in order to get money.

Future Urban Shield conventions are scheduled to take place again Sept. 9-12, 2016 in Pleasanton. However, with all the protests and debates going on, there will undoubtedly be more in depth discussions about this topic in the near future.