Regardless of assault-prompts, target selection is emblematic of the same linear thinking Willie Sutton displayed in explaining why he robbed banks: Because that's where the money is. Why do aspiring cop killers attack police stations? Because that's where the cops are.
Mitigating the Threat
Law enforcement personnel are routinely trained in tactical protocol designed for a variety of field situations. Mitigating the threats posed to them in-house has to be a multi-pronged approach, with consideration given to the following concerns:
- Architectural barriers
- Safe practices
- Identifying threats
- Establishing a will to survive
- Protecting the home turf
The idea of fortifying stations or precincts will doubtlessly find its detractors. After all, for the last decade or so emphasis has been placed on creating client-friendly venues for the public to interact with their protectors. Some administrators would argue that lobbies and parking lots need be accessible to the public and that the odds of a police station coming under attack are remote.
But the odds are not as favorable as they once were. While a vast majority of police, sheriff, and federal offices will not come under attack anytime soon, it is increasingly likely that more will. Nor can an agency take any comfort in having been "pre-disastered."
A few years before Moore launched his assault on Detroit's Precinct 6, a suspect entered the department's 9th Precinct and opened fire.
A former Detroit 6th Precinct officer notes that officers working the desk area have historically been at an architectural disadvantage. "When sitting at the desk, you can't see persons entering the station below their waist," he says. "As they get closer to the desk the view gets worse. I've worked that desk many times and I can't tell you how many times there were officers working behind the desk with no weapon and with no body armor. When I got stuck working the desk, I tried to keep my eyes on persons entering the station, but it was impossible to watch everyone. I always knew something like this was possible and that we were at a disadvantage."
Don Alwes of the National Tactical Officers Association believes that the law enforcement community needs to show greater initiative in addressing such threats.
"Police departments should take these things more seriously than they do," Alwes says. "You've got to be able to prevent someone trying to attack. You have to be able to defend against them by establishing security measures against them."
To that end, Sgt. Eren Stephens of the Detroit PD Public Relations Office notes that the department is looking at a variety of possible chances to enhance officer safety within and without its precincts. Other agencies have tightened security both inside and outside their facilities, employing private security to monitor police parking lots and parking structures. Video surveillance systems give inside personnel a means of monitoring people before they cross lobby thresholds while metal detectors can detect threats without officers having to physically engage subjects. Smoked-glass and ballistic-resistant windows offer additional layers of protection. (See "Fortifying Police Stations.")