Tuesday December 15, Berkeley City Council members will discuss the city's involvement and participation in Urban Shield, a highly militarized SWAT training and weapons expo. The City Council will also be discussing the Berkeley police's crackdown of a protest last December, in which people who came out to stand up against the murders of Black people at the hands of police were brutalized.
This hearing was postponed from December 1. Join us to demand that Berkeley withdraw from this policing program.
Tuesday, December 15
City Council Meeting at 7 pm
2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (2 blocks west of Berkeley BART)
Come give a short public comment about policing and militarization.
Police claim that Urban Shield provides them with better training and skills to be able to handle emergency situations. Yet the increasingly militarized response to protests and everyday situations shows that Urban Shield doesn't increase safety. Instead, it only leads to police gaining more tools, tactics, and power in their repression and control of our communities.
Background: The Berkeley City Council will consider a long-awaited report about police violence against a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest last December, and recommendations for reform. It will also consider whether to continue the Berkeley SWAT team’s participation in the annual Urban Shield exercise that highlights military action by police.
In October, Berkeley Police Review Commission voted down, by a narrow 5-4 margin, a proposal by Commissioner Benjamin Bartlett to suspend Berkeley’s participation in Urban Shield exercises in 2016. Commissioners were disturbed by the program’s militarized approach, by T-shirts sold at the Urban Shield vendor expo saying “Black Rifles Matter”, and by the department’s pattern of racial profiling.
Urban Shield “is not happening in a vacuum,” observed Bartlett. “All over the country, every tier of government is tooling up. They are armed to the teeth. …People are terrified of the police state.”
Urban Shield Graduates Responsible for Violence Against Protest
Berkeley Police response to the protest on December 6 was violent and provocative. Police planned to “Get um’ running! Stretch the crowd out”. This plan and concept of operation was under the command of Lt. Andrew Rateaver (known within the department as “Rat”). Rateaver has participated in every single Urban Shield exercise since 2007, and now commands the Berkeley SWAT team, called the SRT.
The result was even worse than the plan. Police beat journalists, clergy, bystanders, people giving aid to the injured, as well as those actively protesting impunity for the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. Many of those beaten by police on December 6 filed suit last month for violations of their rights.
Berkeley police detective Scott Salas participated in Urban Shield in 2010 and 2011; on December 6, he hit 60-year-old Joseph Cuff, who was walking his dog and had his hands up, with a two-handed shove from his club, knocking Cuff to the ground, according to an affidavit filed in May.
Other commanders who planned the December 6 police action also received Urban Shield training. Lieutenant Alyson Hart was responsible for planning and intelligence on December 6, while Captain Erik Upson was the “incident commander”; Hart and Upson were trained in Urban Shield in 2010 and 2011. Both Rateaver and Upson are subjects of the lawsuit filed last month.
Two other BPD squad leaders on December 6, David Reece and Schofield are also SRT members. Lt. Rateaver told AFSC that SRT members who participate in Urban Shield train other officers, to multiply its impact. So Urban Shield graduates presumably trained officers Reece and Schofield.
In the end, either Urban Shield was ineffective in preventing the violence and repression the BPD demonstrated on December 6, or Urban Shield's anti-terrorism lens and gunned-up approaches contributed to BPD’s violence.
Racist Policing in the Numbers
The militarized tools in Urban Shield are going to a police department that has demonstrated a pattern of racial bias and profiling. Local rights groups NAACP, UC Berkeley Black Student Union and Berkeley Copwatch in September released an analysis of traffic stops by Berkeley PD from January to August of this year. Though Black people constitute less than 8% of Berkeley’s population, they were 30.5% of those stopped by police, according to the analysis. Moreover, White people stopped were more likely to be cited than Blacks or Latinos. In other words, when White civilians are stopped, it is far more often for a legitimate reason, while when police stop African Americans and Latinos, very often it is for no reason.
Commissioner Bartlett put the racial profiling in context, in response to Lt. Rateaver’s presentation about Urban Shield: “I hear from your presentation, ‘Safely Resolve,’ I hear ‘Peaceful.’ But the T-shirt says ‘No Peace.’ And the stops data says: ‘Target Blacks.’ As an African-American I feel it, but I got to tell you White people, we are the canary in the coal mine. If they do it to us, they will do it to you.”
Rewarded for Killing ‘Bad Guys’
The SWAT teams that participate in Urban Shield face a sequence of crisis scenarios, all of which must have a “nexus to terrorism” in order for the exercise to be funded by the Department of Homeland Security. These are team competitions, but teams are not rewarded for de-escalation of conflict. The lives of “bad guys” have no point value in these games. Jim Morrissey, a SWAT medic for the FBI in San Francisco, described to Berkeley’s Police Review Commission one scenario he designed:
“I wanted it to be a gang takeover, because that has happened in numerous places around the country. But of course they said no, it has to be terrorism. So, I’ll change it up a little bit, but the goal is still the same. There’s a threat inside the emergency department, with patients in there, physicians, and nurses and bad guys and good guys. So they were demoted if there was any injury to any other participants other than those who were carrying guns intent on causing more harm. And also they were graded on, Did they secure that scene and initiate casualty care? Did they bring in EMS quickly and work cooperatively with them? So they were given points for that and they were demoted if there was a delay in time…” [italics added]
Notice here that SWAT teams are penalized if police are injured, but not if alleged gunmen are killed. This offers no incentive to negotiate with people who may have political intentions. It also highlights worst case scenarios in police imagination and preparation, despite the vastly different circumstances of most police interventions.
Please speak out in Berkeley on Tuesday the 15th. Make a public comment to the Berkeley City Council on Urban Shield and militarization. Come forward for Items 39 or 40 (only the 4th and 5th action items) - BPD agreements with other agencies and report on BPD's handling of Dec. 2014 protests.
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