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Bob Parker

Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Jose Medina

Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.

Embrace the Ripple Effect

Police departments across the country are reevaluating and improving tactics after the recent shooting deaths of Oakland (Calif.) PD and Pittsburgh PD SWAT officers.

May 27, 2009  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

The back-to-back Oakland and Pittsburgh murders of seven police officers sent shockwaves throughout law enforcement. Shockwaves that continue to be felt, but nowhere more so than in Oakland and Pittsburgh where the tragedies happened.

Since the shootings, Oakland PD and Pittsburgh PD have had little time to mourn their fallen comrades. The nature of policing is a never-ending 24/7 cycle, and officers from both departments go out on the street every day, handling their assignments.

However, it's far from business as usual. How could it be? OPD and PPD just suffered the worst tragedies in both departments' histories. The death of any LEO is tragic enough, leaving an indelible impact on the entire department for years to come.

But the loss of multiple officers in a single incident results in a ripple effect that almost always results in significant departmental changes, and is never forgotten. This ripple effect often reaches far beyond the effected agency itself.

Here are a few examples:

  • 1970 Newhall, CA—4 California Highway Patrol officers KIA during a shootout with 2 felony stop suspects. Became known as the "Newhall Incident," and changed high-risk stop procedures, not only in CHP, but also throughout LE.
  • 1993 Waco, TX—4 ATF SRT agents KIA, 16 WIA, in a bloody shootout with heavily armed, barricaded Branch Davidian cult. Became known as "Waco," the biggest loss of SRT (SWAT) lives in LE history, having a deep impact on high-risk raid tactics throughout LE.
  • 1968 Cleveland, OH—4 CPD officers KIA, 12 WIA, in a bloody shootout with heavily armed militants in a running multi-block gun battle. CPD created a new Tactical Unit (evolved into SWAT), began using an armored vehicle, and authorized 1,200 officers to purchase and carry .30 cal. M-1 carbines (state of the art at the time). Authorization lasted 10 years, until rescinded by politicians.
  • 1997 Los Angeles, CA—North Hollywood shootout, 11 LAPD WIA, in a massive shootout with two heavily armed and armored suspects, who were the only ones to die. As a result, LAPD obtained 600 .223 cal. patrol rifles, in supervisors' vehicles, for use by select, trained officers. Also resulted in many other LE agencies nationwide obtaining patrol rifles for their agencies.
  • 1999 Littleton, CO—Columbine High School active shooter massacre. 15 dead, numerous wounded. Resulted in a total overhaul and change in the way LE responds to active shooters—a change that continues to evolve today.

The Oakland and Pittsburgh tragedies occurred amidst an unprecedented wave of deadly active shooter incidents across America that left more than 50 people dead, with others wounded, and entire communities scarred and scared.

Oakland and Pittsburgh have had an equally powerful impact on all of LE across America. If this could happen to Pittsburgh and Oakland, it could happen anywhere, to any of us. If so, are we ready—or not?

I have no doubt that right now many LE agencies are taking long, hard looks at their tactics, procedures, policies, training, equipment, and weaponry. In law enforcement, we learn from each other—or at least we should.

So, what have Pittsburgh and Oakland learned from their worst days in history?

An in-depth article by Richard Lorg in the May 3, 2009 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Pittsburgh looking at equipment, police training changes after shootings," provides insight into changes now underway in Pittsburgh PD. Changes that may ultimately reach the state level.

Pittsburgh PD is looking to obtain 46 .223 caliber patrol rifles for first responders. Prior to the April 4 shooting, PPD relied on 39 SWAT officers for 24/7 coverage citywide. The article also notes that Philadelphia PD obtained 444 patrol rifles after an officer was killed by a bank robber with an assault rifle.

PPD is also looking at upgrading current level II body armor to level IIIA, along with obtaining ballistic shields for patrol. Along with updating the current annual six-hour state mandated active shooter (quad) training.

Finally, PPD SWAT is researching armored rescue vehicles tailored to saving downed officers. A number of you may have seen the photos of bullet hits (none penetrated) on PPD's BEAR ARV. A sobering reminder that the casualty toll could have easily been much higher.

Just as with PPD, there are developments within OPD also. The most striking of which is OPD SWAT has been in "stand down" mode (not responding to incidents) since March 21. The reason is obvious. OPD SWAT lost two sergeants/team leaders, who were killed in the final shootout inside the suspect's apartment.

Covering for OPD SWAT since March 21 is Alameda County Sheriff SWAT. I know of at least two callouts (barricades) they've handled in the interim—Apr. 28 and May 5. Both were resolved without incident. This is a testimony to the close working relationship and mutual trust between both OPD and ACSD. It's something that doesn't happen by accident, and instead requires lots of hard work by both teams to reach this level.

During this interim, OPD SWAT has been busy selecting and training two new team leaders and the team is expected to be good to go soon.

In the ultimate case of adding insult to injury, Oakland's mayor announced the layoffs of 140 police officers in October—a full 17 percent of an already severely understaffed force in a city with one of the nation's highest crime rates.

Despite the tragedy and adversity, the brave, dedicated police officers of Oakland and Pittsburgh will get back up, dust themselves off, and fight on to serve and protect the public. And so will the rest of us.

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Deadman @ 4/22/2011 12:04 AM

Does anybody out there remember when a two man car used to handle the hot calls,to talk off-balanced neighbors into putting their weapons down and giving up because there was no S.W.A.T.?

Does anybody remember when police pepartments used to confiscate weapons and the departments would use them on the job or for serious calls?Does anybody remember street survival updates that used to have pertinent information for staying alive,i haven't heard of a class recently.Does anybody remember real training,with hands on scenerios with really good instructors like they used to have at O.P.A.T.A in Ohio?I do.Does anybody remember The Onion Field?Departments need to offer real training videos like they used to have with The Newhall Incident,find real training exercises,not the internet crap,there is no interaction between officers and the computer.We had real interaction between officers and instructors,it really made a believer out of you when you walked up on a traffic stop and get shot at with cotton bullets and primers,they burn .There is nothing out there to really shock you,to wake you up.The instructor needs to impart real qualified information to you,not just run off at the mouth because he got the training job because he is glib or goes drinking with the Lt.As i told one Lt.,i can learn stupid on my own,i don't need you to teach it to me,i need facts,information,the real lesson,the correct way to do things.I used to bring my police magazine to work,copy pertinent information,hand-to-hand,shooting,testifying,courtroom,report writing and post it on the bulletin board for the younger officers to peruse,for lessons to be learned,the officers appreciated the information.

Pup @ 11/29/2012 10:05 AM

Deadman, I totally agree with you. I've been on the department
36 years and I'veseen countless of personnel who have no idea about the history of law enforcement. Countless times I send out for personnel to view the ODPM. I talk and teach about the mistakes I made and others who are unable to speak any longer. The new era is here. There is no need for personnel to learn. They promote because of one reason or another.
The hunger to learn is longer there as the kids are well fed by the courts and department. I still remember the CHP shooting. I learned of the shooting, both as a high school student and a member of LE.
As for Police Magazine, it's a blessing there are a few good men and women who still care about their fellow officers and law enforcement. I would like to Thank P.M. for your articles and your spirt. Thank you to those LEO who give their opinions and served to protect our cities and country. Please stay safe and God Bless...

Aug Schwiesow @ 9/9/2018 12:36 PM

A CHP officer gave me an overview of this incident 19 1971 when we both attended a nine month course in LE Administration at Northwestern University. As along time pistol advocate and a PD officer on the Des Plaines, IL PD, I used this as an argument from changing from revolvers to pistols. Of course, on July 14, 1972, I cut eight tendons and half the main nerve in my right wrist during a tornado. I was successful in being the first officer to be allowed to carry a pistol as I could not pull the trigger on a revolver. In a matter of months one town after another converted to pistols and today I think there are no revolvers in modern policing. Shortly before the tornado incident I took 1st Place Master Combat trophy in a six month competition with 4-5 area departments. Strength returned slowly, feeling no, and today I carry a.45 pistol with a CCP thru IROCC. My reason for wanting to carry after retirement was to be able to come to the aide of an officer in a life threatening inciden

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