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