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Report Says Dorner Manhunt Plagued by Communications Problems

May 06, 2014  | 

The Police Foundation Monday released an in-depth review and analysis of the police response to the attacks by a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, who killed four people and substantially raised the threat level for Southern California law enforcement for 10 days in February 2013.

In a case that crossed the boundaries of five of the nation’s most populous counties, and involved law enforcement from multiple jurisdictions, the Police Foundation found that the agencies worked to find ways to cooperate and support each other to a high degree. With the benefit of hindsight, however, the Foundation identified a number of challenges that need to be addressed for future incidents involving multiple public safety agencies.

“This incident represents a sentinel event in American policing – one that serves as a warning of needed changes in the public safety system,” said Police Foundation President Jim Bueermann, who put the Foundation's review team together. “A trained former police officer was hunting police officers and their families, exploiting geo-political, jurisdictional and technological boundaries and using legally-acquired, sophisticated, high-powered weaponry.”

The report’s release was featured on the CBS This Morning national report, with an interview of President Bueermann and report team leader Rick Braziel, the retired Chief of Sacramento Police.

 California state law enforcement officials praised the report.

 “The value of a comprehensive critical review such as this cannot be overstated - the lessons learned will help all law-enforcement better understand how important relationships and communication are when protecting our respective communities,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff-Coroner Adam Christianson, California State Sheriff’s Association President. “The Sheriffs of California are committed to using the lessons learned identified in the Police Foundation review to improve public safety statewide.”

 “Law enforcement executives and staffs participating in this review are to be commended for their readiness to analyze their response to the events related to Christopher Dorner,” said Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher Boyd, President of the California Police Chiefs Association. “Police Chiefs across this state are already looking at the lessons learned so that we may continue to provide the best possible service to our communities.”

The report prepared by a team of experienced law enforcement professionals found that Southern California officers and deputies performed heroically and with a high level of professionalism during an incident in which many believed that their lives – and their families - could be under attack. The report examines policies and practices that policing agencies should consider modifying regarding regional responses and large-scale incidents. The observations are focused on Southern California law enforcement, but these lessons can be applied elsewhere.

Additional findings included:

  • Agencies should develop comprehensive plans for regional response, including procedures for communication and cooperation while operating in jurisdictions outside their normal regional operating environment. Regular inter-agency cooperation across county lines should be encouraged to develop ties that smooth working relationships during major incidents.
  • Law enforcement leaders should carefully examine their self-deployment policies, and explore how these policies could be adapted for regional events. Hundreds of officers streamed into the San Bernardino Mountains when the suspect was cornered. The results were clogged roads and an over-abundance of law enforcement that distracted incident commanders and created a potentially dangerous situation
  • As in other large scale responses across cities and counties, interoperability is a major challenge for law enforcement agencies.  From examination of the Dorner events, communication between agencies contributed to confusion and delays in two officer-involved shootings during the incident. Interoperability is an issue that needs to be more closely examined by federal, state, and local officials and continues to be a national law enforcement problem
  • All personnel should receive regular training in major-incident response systems like the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

     The report, which is dedicated to the memory of those murdered by Dorner, coincides with the entry of the names of the officers killed in the California Peace Officers Memorial today in Sacramento. They will also be memorialized at the National Peace Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. during National Police Week next week.

The Police Foundation is grateful for the extensive support and cooperation from the agencies involved. Team members interviewed San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, Los Angeles Chief of Police Charlie Beck, Riverside Chief of Police Sergio Diaz, Irvine Chief of Police Dave Maggard, Corona Chief of Police Michael Abel, retired Torrance Chief of Police John Neu and National City Chief of Police Manuel Rodriguez. They also interviewed more than 100 deputies, officers, detectives and law enforcement leaders, as well as state and federal agencies and civilians involved in the incident.

The team assembled by Police Foundation President Bueermann includes Mr. Rick Braziel, the retired Chief of the Sacramento Police Department, Mr. Bernard Melekian, the former Director of the federal COPS office and former Chief of the Pasadena Police Department, Ms. Sue Rahr, the former King County (WA) Sheriff and current executive director of the Washington State police training academy, and Dr. Jeff Rojek, a former LAPD officer, now an Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of South Carolina.

The report is available for download as a text version here.


Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

TheRookie @ 5/6/2014 7:42 PM

As was learned with Columbine in Colorado inter-agency facing communications is a necessity in todays L.E. I would think Southern California would have already had that capability. Wow! I hope they now have a few options. #1)Regional/Local Incident Management System. #2) SIMS if needed. #3) And if State Lines crossed then the NICS. I would want Local to State controlled before jumping right to the Federal Gov't type system. They should be used only when absolutely necessary.

TheRookie @ 5/6/2014 7:45 PM

Sorry meant "NIMS" As an old Sgt. told me years ago, "This getting old isn't for sissies." He wasn't kidding.

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