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.