Exactly two weeks apart a year ago, a staggering total of seven police officers from two cities were shot and killed—by lone gunmen armed with assault rifles, laying in wait to shoot police officers—and engaging SWAT teams in fierce firefights.
As in Oakland, Pittsburgh police have had a very rough year, grieving and recovering from the murders of three fellow officers. All the while, continuing to serve and protect the citizens of Pittsburgh as the professionals they are.
In the aftermath of April 4, Pittsburgh PD recognized the need to upgrade, obtaining 46 patrol rifles, to be used by trained personnel. In addition, by the end of 2010, the department expects to have its new $10 million radio system operational.
With the smoke of the April 4 tragedy barely cleared, the agency was preparing for what may be the challenging and demanding event in the city's history (the G-20 summit) attended by leaders and delegations from 20 nations.
Leaders from around the world were expected to converge on Pittsburgh on Sept. 24-25, 2009. In past G-20 summits, there have been large often violent protests and demonstrations involving radicals and militants. A true challenge for any police department—let alone one still recovering from the loss of three of their officers.
Due to high potential of trouble and violence accompanying the G-20 summit, Pittsburgh PD realized they would need far more LEOs than their 910-officer department and 1,000 Pennsylvania State Police could provide. Responding to a nationwide call for LEO assistance, a total of 4,000 police were assigned to the G-20 summit.
Protests and demonstrations did occur, and there were 190 arrests. However, the Pittsburgh G-20 summit went on without interruption due in large part to the professionalism of 4,000 police officers.
The morning of April 4, 2009, Pittsburgh PD's SWAT faced a nightmare situation. They found themselves in a furious, morning long, gunbattle with the now-barricaded gunman who fired at SWAT officers attempting to rescue downed fellow officers.
The tactical unit employed their Armored Rescue Vehicle to great extent and success, withstanding a number of bullet hits. Eventually, the wounded gunman surrendered, and has since been charged criminally. His trial is scheduled in October in Pittsburgh. Due to the tragedy's massive publicity in Pittsburgh, the jury will be selected from a juror pool from nearby Harrisburg.
Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Police/SWAT will also host the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) annual conference from Sept. 19-24. Hundreds of SWAT officers from across the country, and other nations, will converge on Pittsburgh for this prestigious SWAT conference.
Every line-of-duty death (LODD) that occurs anywhere has a profoundly deep effect upon a LE agency. The back-to-back Oakland and Pittsburgh tragedies that resulted in seven LODDs in a two-week span is unprecedented and sent shockwaves throughout law enforcement.
Yet, this number pales in comparison to the deadliest LODD toll in American history on Sept. 11, 2001 by NYPD (especially ESU) and NY/NJ Port Authority PD.
In all three tragedies, the role of SWAT/ESU was significant. In all three cities, SWAT/ESU rose to the occasion. And equally importantly, SWAT/ESU has bounced back to lead the tactical way for their respective departments.
As with all LODD tragedies, as time goes on, the healing process becomes all important. At the same time, we can never forget. To do so would dishonor those brave officers who sacrificed their lives while serving and protecting the public.
To their credit, each department has continued to do their jobs with dignity and honor. Their devotion to duty should serve as an inspiration for all of law enforcement. No matter how much of a "hit" we take, ultimately we will prevail.