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Station Attacks

Criminals who hate cops know that you tend to let your guard down when you’re on your home turf.

May 16, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

Detroit Commander Brian Davis seemingly did as much in taking out police station shooter Lamar Moore. Davis reacted to the threat immediately, retrieving a firearm from a fallen officer and engaging Moore. When a shotgun blast crippled his hand, Davis lost the firearm but not the will to survive. He characterized his picking up and throwing the trash can as a distraction, something to buy him a precious split-second or two. It paid off as his rounds eventually took their toll on Moore.

Davis' admirable and courageous example is something to be emulated, but even he says that he could have further aided his cause: "I should have remembered to use the gun in my ankle holster."

Horrors to Come

There may be additional inducements for America's criminals taking the fight to cops on the horizon. And when it comes to the efficacy of inhibiting cops from doing their jobs, they need look no further than the continent to our south.

"Look at Brazil," says Alwes. "In Sao Paolo, the gangs have taken over 40 percent of the town by using terrorist tactics. They have literally put themselves in a position where the government says, 'If you don't attack us, we won't attack you. You do your own thing.' The criminal elements have adopted terrorist tactics because they work. It will probably be a matter of time before the gangs in our country try to do something like that."

Islamist terrorists are another concern. Various factions, including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas, have repeatedly targeted law enforcement agencies, their employees, and applicants throughout the world.

Many of the tactics for these attacks have come from the 40-year-old "Mini-Manual," a terrorist handbook that emphasizes targeting the police and attacking police stations, jails, and patrol vehicles. With thousands of such attacks having been made in the Middle East, Asia, Northern Ireland, and Mexico, one has to wonder about the prospect of spillover violence in this country.

Perhaps it has already happened.

On March 30, an improvised explosive device was thrown into a Rio Rancho patrol car while it was parked at an Albuquerque apartment complex. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Lessons Learned from Station Attacks

Patrol Commander Howell Addison of the Grant Parish (La.) Sheriff's Office says that in light of the March attack on his agency's station a number of security precautions have been addressed and more have been planned.

At the time of the shooting, civilian dispatchers vacated their workstations for greater cover. This understandable exodus nonetheless left the station unable to field citizen calls or dispatch units. The relocation of the dispatch center toward a rear area of the building-already under consideration-has been green-lit.

Other measures addressed the prospect of insulating personnel both visibly and architecturally. Mirrored glass and key-coded doors have been installed. Also, a minimum of two detectives are now on hand during regular business hours, with lobby doors locked thereafter (people can still be buzzed in by personnel). Ballistic vests, while not obligated, are available to personnel working office assignments.

The booby-trap attacks last year on the Hemet (Calif.) Police Department likewise resulted in changes to that agency's normal operations.

Hemet PD Lt. Duane Wiseheart says working with a 50-year-old facility required considerable retrofitting: Security barriers were placed around employee parking areas and a fenced in sally port was installed for prisoner transport. In the aftermath of a bomb being discovered on a detective's car, the department issued mirrors for officers to scan the undercarriages of their patrol units prior to entering them.

Recognizing the potential for attacks to migrate elsewhere, Hemet dispatchers ceased broadcasting calls for a six-month period so as to mitigate the chance that someone monitoring their frequency could exploit a legitimate call for service to a targeting advantage. Calls dispatched via MDTs also reflected greater attentiveness to detail; officers assigned these calls handled many as potential ambush situations.

Whether or not they drove take home police cars, Hemet officers varied their routes going to or coming from work as well as when and where they ate their meals to avoid coming under fire.

"We hadn't experienced that next level of aggression," Wisehart reflects. "But we were expecting it and preparing for it."

These conscientious efforts paid off: Suspects in the attacks were taken into custody and not a single Hemet officer was injured by the booby traps.


Fortifying Police Stations

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Morning Eagle @ 5/17/2011 1:46 AM

Here is another very timely and informative article from Dean. This is a vulnerability that should not be ignored or put on the planning back burner for "someday." Given the technologies available today for enhancing facility and personnel security using unobtrusive devices and practices, (to placate those who object to "creating a fortress atmosphere) there is no valid reason for failure to implement more stringent protective measures as quickly as budgets will permit. But even without immediate equipment or structural upgrades there are many things that could be done to correct the tendencies to go into condition white just because one is in the office surroundings. The article alludes to the growing terorrist threat from groups south of the border. We already know Hezbollah and other middle east organizations are working with the drug/human smugglers in Mexico and other countries and are getting their agents into our country mixed in with the flood of more benign invaders. Ignore or dismiss this potential source of attack at your peril. It is very real and high on their priority list will be disrupting law enforcement and other EMS responders. They may be evil but they are not stupid.

It is a no-brainer that communications/dispatch centers and personnel (mostly unarmed) must be obscured and protected from the view and hearing of the public. If impracticle to move to an inner part of the facility, at the very least install smoked or one-way-view bullet proof glass. Costly? Perhaps, but not as costly as losing your commo in an emergency would be.

Take it from an old timer, always be armed and mentally ready because you just never know, not even when you are in the office.

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