Public Comment

Federal entanglements: it's time to say goodbye

J.P. Massar
Friday June 16, 2017 - 11:44:00 AM

On June 20th, the Berkeley City Council will be deciding whether to continue participating in Urban Shield, which among other things conducts SWAT team trainings mandated to have "a nexus to terrorism."

If Berkeley is to have police, there is no doubt they need to receiving proper and effective training. Berkeley must ask itself, then "What constitutes such training, and in what environment? Here are some principles Berkeley's policy makers should embrace:

- Training must not occur in a militaristic, testosterone-laden, violence-promoting and racially-charged environment. (This should go without saying.) Urban Shield is all of that. Urban Shield advocates dismiss such problems, or claim they will be easily fixed. The truth is that they are inherent in training which promotes the mythos of "The Warrior Cop," evident in Urban Shield promotional pictures and videos. - Training should be about the most critical, most likely, and most life-threatening issues Berkeley faces.

That means, for one, encounters with those in need of mental health services. Emergency training must also offer coordinated preparedness for a major earthquake or Hills fire, things that are almost inevitable, rather than unlikely scenarios. 

In the United States, it is approximately thirty times as likely that a police officer will kill someone as it is that someone is killed in a terroristic act by a non-police officer. It only makes sense, then, in maximizing lives saved, to place far more emphasis on de-escalation, disarmament and other engagement techniques that minimize the chance of someone being killed in a police encounter than continuing, as Berkeley's police have done for the last decade through Urban Shield, to train with so much energy against terror. 

The Council therefore must end Berkeley's participation in Urban Shield and insist tht BPD prioritize training to face the real and most likely dangers Berkeley faces. 

Also on the 20th the Council will take up whether to enter into agreements with various Federal agencies - so called Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). 

Regardless of the details in any particular Federal MOU or other psuedo-agreement, The Council needs to step back and think seriously about what entanglement with this administration - directly and through its subordinate agencies - means. 

- We have ICE agents looking for 4th graders at schools, and terrorizing people with children and grandchildren who have been on these shores for decades. - We have a Attorney General who would like nothing better than to lock most of Berkeley away for violating drug laws. - We have a President who may well have committed obstruction of justice. At least twice. - We have a President who doesn't understand the 1st amendment, who ran on a Muslim Ban, and whom likely doesn't understand any of the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights. - We have agencies like the FBI and the NSA with vast powers, subordinate to an Executive Branch which is vindictive, tempered only by its seeming incompetence. 

The question whether we should be cutting all the ties that we possibly can with this Hydra has a straightforward, logically arrived at, answer: Yes, absolutely yes. The Council must absolutely refuse to cooperate in any way with ICE, NCRIC (The local Federal "fusion center" which collects data on all of us) and UASI (the entity that funds Urban Shield), and to the extent legally possible ensure that we are not unwittingly allowing agencies such as the FBI, the ATF or the DoJ to provide information on immigrants living in Berkeley to ICE or to given them assistance in executing Sessions' drug war. 

The Council must refuse to sign any MOU with NCRIC or UASI, and, as Oakland is in the process of doing, revoke and rescind any and all agreements we have with ICE.