By Steven Tavares.
A Hayward community task force created earlier this year to update the city’s 25-year-old Anti-Discrimination Action Plan is recommending the city’s police force end its participation in Urban Shield, the disaster training exhibition and weapons trade show held annually in Alameda County.
The task force, which renamed the Anti-Discrimination Action Plan as the “Commitment for an Inclusive, Equitable, and Compassionate Community” (CIECC), wants the city to end its association with Urban Shield by July 2018. The recommendation was among 50 items the task force is urging the city to complete over the next two years to protect the city’s immigrants, the disabled and its overall community values.
But the recommendation of withdrawal from Urban Shield is by far the most divergent from Hayward’s existing policies. Hayward Police have participated in Urban Shield for the last seven years, including last summer.
The event has drawn increasing opposition from activists in many East Bay cities for increasing the militarization of local police departments and portraying some immigrant groups as the enemy in its exercises.
The trade show portion of Urban Shield in the past has often featured discriminatory t-shirts and signs for sale against Muslims and undocumented immigrants, for instance.
The outcry led the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department this year to issue new guidelines to ban vendors from displaying inflammatory and racist messages, prohibiting weapons sales, and eliminating racial stereotyping from its training exercises.
The reported use during Urban Shield training exercises of suspects depicted as Arabs, for instance, rankled many task force members, for promoting racial stereotypes of Muslims.
A city staff report acknowledged the task force’s concerns, but adds the Urban Shield disaster training exercises are useful to Hayward police officers.
“Staff recommends that rather than withdrawing from the Urban Shield training altogether, the City continue to work with interested community members to change the way in which Urban Shield is promoted and implemented, to increase community involvement in the program, to ensure that all levels of program participants understand the underlying principle of the training is to strengthen our communities, and emphasize the preparation of both first-responders and community members for the most likely events that will occur, such as local wide-spread disasters,” according to the staff report.
The Hayward City Council formed the community task force in late January primarily to update the city’s anti-discrimination policy. But with rising anxiety over President Trump’s inauguration and worries the incoming administration would crack down severely on various immigrant groups, the 22-member community task force was soon asked to issue a recommendation on whether the Hayward City Council should declare sanctuary city status.
The move was panned by critics and advocates for the appearance that Hayward city and elected officials were sidestepping the sanctuary city issue through the task force rather than placing it on a city council agenda and making a decision like many of its neighboring cities.
The task force ultimately recommended becoming a sanctuary city and the City Council approved the resolution in June, but only after nearly ever city in the East Bay had done so months prior.