Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Ervan Romans, and Daniel Sakai — four warriors forever etched in our hearts and memories. These warriors were professional lawmen, working the streets of what can be a dangerous town, even when faced with mounting resistance from groups of anti-police radicals that have tormented the Oakland Police Department.
These warriors hit the streets every day, willing to keep the citizens of their city safe from criminal enterprise. They did this at the expense of their own lives. That day, my heart was with Oakland PD and the families of these American heroes.
The aftermath — as spelled out in the Independent Board of Inquiry — serves as a constant reminder to me as a tactical commander and law enforcement trainer to maintain situational awareness when faced with great adverstity.
A Heavy Burden
We all understand how hard decision-making can be in the face of chaos. The after-action report details the mistakes made at the scene. We must also acknowledge that the men who made these decisions had good intentions and will live with those decisions for the rest of their lives. That is a heavy burden to live with — knowing that perhaps, we could have done things different. Perhaps the outcome would have been different if these men recognized all of their tactical options. Perhaps if upper command wouldn’t have taken 90 minutes to respond to the scene they could have helped these leaders that at least attempted to apprehend a cop killer.
I have been involved in the pursuit of a cop killer. I understand the personal emotions related to this incident that these commanders where given. I know what it’s like to want revenge on a man that murdered one of your own. There is a potential for personal emotions to influence your decision-making process. A good leader will separate his anger, rage, and desire to get even with good tactical decision-making.
When your command decisions influences the outcome of a critical incident, it’s in that hour that your decisions affect the safety of your men. You have an obligation to your officers to have exceptional situational awareness while navigating the fog of chaos. As a commander you must recognize your abilities, resources and authority to act and then have the humility to empower yourself with these resources. There is no hurry to act unless faced with an active shooter. Exploiting time is an advantage that we tactical commanders utilize without hesitation. When practical, uniformed commanders should use this to their advantage also.
From a tactical perspective, don’t let these heroic men die in vain. Don’t let their memories be forgotten. Celebrate them for the warriors they were. Take the lessons learned from an inquiry board that had months to deliberate and pick apart decisions made by commanders that were made in an instant, so that commanders in the future don’t make the same mistake.
The concept of command and control is crucial on the military battlefield. Using that philosophy will keep your officers safer. Here are some simple principles that may help you if you find yourself confronted in a similar situation as the Oakland tragedy.
Command and Control
1.) “Incident Command System” should always be used in large critical incidents, no excuses.
2.) Ad-hoc tactical teams, should only be used for active shooter events, even then there should be some training and tactics. Never take command of tactical team (outside of an active shooter) unless you have the authority and experience to do so.
3.) Tactical control must be gained to exploit time, as time is our greatest ally.
4.) Tactical planning must provide the safest strategy for the men making the entry into your adversaries’ stronghold.
5.) Maintain “Tactical Strategic Priorities.” Contain location, place arrest/react team, deploy sniper observer teams, establish negotiations, tactical planning, entry team brief and rehearsal, execute tactical plan. Keep in mind that each of these objectives have various options and nuisances that are specific to that objective i.e.; use of gas, robots, explosive breaching and various other tactical options. Again, if these options are outside of your authority be mindful of the consequences if they fail.
Lastly, consider eliminating the use of the “dynamic entry” by all officers as a squad movement option. Test and evaluate the use of a “deliberate entry” in place of the dynamic entry.
When faced with a barricaded gunman time and tactics will allow us to apprehend the subject without the lose of an officers life. As tactical commanders we should not allow a single barricaded gunman to defeat us.
OPD should be proud of their brave warriors. These men took on a dangerous man with courage and resolve. Don’t let the negative overshadow the sacrifices of Oakland’s finest. Take the lessons learned and use them for future successful tactical operations. Do this in their names as they watch over us with pride.
Again today, we are all OPD...