Last week, the annual “Urban Shield” martial law training drill returned to Oakland and other parts of the bay area in California. The operation happens every year and is accompanied by a trade show that exhibits a wide variety of high-tech law enforcement equipment.
Similar exercises take place all throughout the year in different parts of the country, but Urban Shield in Oakland pioneered this effort 8 years ago and is one of the biggest events of it’s kind in the world.
As a result of the recent controversy surrounding police brutality and the militarization of American police departments, the protests against this year’s operation in Oakland were unprecedented.
In response to the protests, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan announced that Urban Shield will not be returning to the city in future years.
“As to Urban Shield itself: Urban Shield is a regional preparedness training exercise for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services and has been held in Oakland for the past two years. The event will not be held in Oakland next year, the City Administrator’s Office will be asking our agent not to pursue another contract,” Quan said in a statement on Friday, before the operation had even ended.
However, representatives from the local police department that orchestrates the drill said that the mayor might not have a say in the matter.
“Mayor Quan has had little to no involvement with Urban Shield. She does not have the authority to tell Urban Shield or anyone that they can’t come into the City of Oakland. We recognize that she can influence the Oakland convention center, but we find it amazing that the mayor of Oakland does not want better training for the cities’ first responders nor the hotel tax revenue, sales tax revenue, and low crime rate in the downtown area that Urban Shield and its 5,000-plus attendees has provided in the last few years to the City of Oakland,” said Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the department.
Eventually, Nelson conceded that they would be “more than happy to bring these benefits to some other area” if the city did ultimately reject the program.
The Mayor’s comments come just days after she dodged questions about the operation.
In her recent announcement, Quan also mentioned that the city of Oakland does not actually own any of the military gear that is used in the training exercises
“It’s important to note that OPD has no military surplus hardware at all, and no fully-automatic weapons,” she said.
However, even the cities that don’t actually own the equipment are still able to receive it at a moments notice.