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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.



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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.
SWAT

Oakland SWAT Ambush: After-Action Report

The department's response to a desperate parolee was ineffective at best.

January 07, 2010  |  by - Also by this author


Image via Mike Rosati Photography (Flickr.com).

The independent report on the Oakland police murder details many of the mistakes that led to the tragedy.

Yesterday the Oakland (Calif.) Police Department released the report of an independent board of inquiry that it commissioned to examine the March 21, 2008 incident that claimed the lives of four Oakland officers.

The report (read it in its entirety) details a cascade of mistakes that led to the tragic deaths of Sgt. Mark Dunakin, Officer John Hege, Sgt. Ervin Romans, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai. It faults the Oakland PD for poor communication, weak command and control, and poor planning. In other words, chaos.

Produced by police experts, the report pulls no punches. It gives credit where due and slams officers for bad decisions and commanders for bad leadership and organization (Read POLICE Magazine's analysis of the Oakland SWAT ambush).

The cascade of mistakes begins with the traffic stop by motor officer Dunakin and backup response by motor officer Hege at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. Dunakin pulled over a car driven by parolee Lovelle Mixon and ran the plate and the driver's license. Hege arrived as cover. Hearing that there was no record on file for the license, Dunakin and Hege approached along the driver's door side of the car together. That's when Mixon opened fire. Neither officer was able to draw his weapon and return fire. The report criticizes the tactics of the officers for not using a good tactical approach or contact and cover techniques.

During a press conference yesterday Oakland PD Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said: "I don't know if they (Dunakin and Hege) had done anything differently if the results wouldn't have been the same. Lovelle Mixon was determined, willing, and capable of doing what he did."

After a citywide Officer Needs Help call was broadcast, 115 police units from a variety of agencies converged on the scene. But there was no command center so their efforts were not appropriately coordinated.

(Listen to the OPD radio calls.)

"No command post was established, and the citywide response overwhelmed the on-scene commanders, with many responders self-assigning their own activities. It would be 90 minutes before senior OPD leaders arrived on the scene," the report says.

Three lieutenants basically ended up vying for incident command but with none of them specifically establishing command and control. But that does not mean that some of them didn't do good work. One noted in the report as Lt. #1 obtained the likely location of the suspect from an eyewitness who saw him enter an apartment building. And another noted as Lt. #2 established a perimeter.

Much of the report's critical comments fall on Lt. #3, an officer identified by local media as Chris Mufarreh. The report explains that Lt. #3 assumed command at the scene but was not fully in command. It also implies that he was determined to find out if Mixon was in the apartment as quickly as possible because he doubted that the suspect was in the building.

During all of this command confusion, a sergeant that the report does not identify pitched the idea of having a canine track Mixon from the point of the traffic stop, which he fled on foot. The sergeant even arranged to have the Alameda County Sheriff's Department supply the tracking dog. Lt. #3 reportedly nixed the idea saying that it was too dangerous.

SWAT had not officially been called in. But some SWAT team members had responded to the citywide call for help. Lt. #3 ordered the SWAT team members to form what the report calls an "ad hoc entry team."

The word "ad hoc" in this case means formed from whatever was immediately available. And unfortunately, an entire tactical team was not available. The report says the available tactical team members did not include snipers, hostage negotiators, or tactical operations support. They didn't even have their equipment van although they did have a Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle.

Tags: Oakland PD, Oakland SWAT Ambush, SWAT Tactics


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

kujo @ 1/7/2010 7:25 PM

Who exactly are the "police experts"? Maybe next time the officers should all just wait for these crtitiquing "police experts" to arrive before any decisions are made. It's clear mistakes were made but come on. If they would not have gone in and that murderer decided to kill his sister and himself then I'm sure they would have blamed the police for that as well. It's pretty easy to pick apart the actions of others while safely in a conference room for three days. I feel it is completely justified to look for things to improve but some of that sounds like a holier than thou attitude more so than a realistic view of a dynamic situation.

Chinhokelly @ 1/8/2010 7:10 AM

My sentiments mirror Kujo's. It's always easy for the ubiquitous armchair Monday morning QB to find fault for any event, even if it had a 100% positive turnout with no one else getting shot. In addition, I know that many if not most of these incidents deemed by "someone" to be a SNAFU have multiple causations, often leading to top executives such as the Sheriff/Chief or equivalent. Will a committee of standing chiefs really fault another chief who is likely a fellow IACP member or Command College drinking pal? Or will the line of reasoning always follow the path away from their cohorts? Taking the initiative to do SOMETHING and ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY should be lauded and resulting outcomes critiqued, not used as fodder against political sacrificial lambs...besides, is there any right-thinking cop that doesn't think the LT and CPT involved aren't beating THEMSELVES up over this and will likely retire from justified stress? Finally, the new OPD Chief (with no bridges to burn) should go after all those police supervisors and managers who DID NOTHING except protect their careers in this incident!!!!! I humbly suggest demoting or at least suspending all those deadhead managers who were on duty and should have stepped up to the plate and just order some tactical retraining for the *POLITICALLY VALIANT* LT Mufarrah and CPT Orozco.

editor @ 1/8/2010 8:26 AM

Kujo: The identities of the board of inquiry have not been revealed. The report also did not identify officers by name. Subsequent actions of the Oakland PD and current and past media reports identified many of the officers who were singled out for criticism.

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