In my opinion, the police sergeant is the most influential position of all the command ranks within any agency. Police agencies cannot function to its potential if lacking responsible leadership from its first line supervisors with the back bone to his or her job. One example of how vital the police sergeant is to our profession is Teresa Evans.
Evans was a sergeant with the LAPD at the time of the Chris Dorner incident and had a hunch that he was involved in the Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence murders in Irvine.
Thinking her suspicion was a longshot, Sergeant Evans called the Irvine Police Department and placed Dorner as the focus for those murders which would spark a massive manhunt. We all know how that ended, one year ago today.
Taking Immediate Action
Often, first-line supervisors get criticized for inaction from officers they supervise and from command staff to whom they answer. Officers know that getting a sergeant in the report passes the burden of responsibility as he or she types an incident report. When an incident gets critiqued by the brass they will be quick to also place the burden of responsibility onto the sergeant in the report.
Sergeant Evans didn’t concern herself with criticism six years prior when she was Dorner’s field training officer. She recognized concerns in her recruit and acted upon them.
As a sergeant she didn’t concern herself with the possible embarrassment if she was wrong tipping off the Irvine Police to her hunch. Humility and personal responsibility drove her to put herself out there for ridicule.
Upon learning of Dorner’s “manifesto,” LAPD top command recognized the legitimate threats and sprang into action. Hundreds of officers were detailed to protect the 77 officers, sergeants, and command staff listed in the manifesto.
This was done throughout the Los Angeles metro area — LAPD command was willing to take it on the chin from neighboring jurisdictions that didn’t understand their concern and tactics in the effort to keep their officers safe when time was critical.
Two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputies and two California Fish and Wildlife wardens who had set up a checkpoint then encountered Dorner.
They would give chase unto a man that had managed to remain hidden for five days and they had full knowledge of the previous violent encounters with law enforcement and the murders he was responsible for. These men didn’t stand by and radio that Dorner just breached their checkpoint (and wait for air units to give chase).
They realized how dangerous this man was to the public they serve and without a second thought they were chasing Dorner. He would crash and abandon that vehicle but their heroics would not only spot the cop killer after a long lull but also serve to shrink the drag net that had been set.
A San Bernardino detective who was off for a couple weeks due to his babies’ births decided to return to work early and join his two brothers, also San Bernardino deputies, in the manhunt for Dorner.
He and his partner would soon be ambushed by Dorner.
He would find himself lying helpless in a street — pinned down by Dorner — shot in the face, chest, and leg and telling his wife goodbye as he thought death was eminent.
That’s when a former Army Ranger and San Bernardino deputy would risk his own life to lay down smoke as cover so that other deputies could extract the deputies laying helpless in the street.
A Brief Debrief
With the confirmation that the cabin Dorner was utilizing for a stronghold was free of hostages, sound tactical decisions were being made by SWAT commanders. Ripping down the side of a wall of the cabin, SWAT commanders were able to determine Dorner was still alive.
The swift delivery of chemical munitions would soon prompt the suicide of this cop-killer.
SWAT commanders know that you never let a moment of opportunity pass — you may not get another.
These commanders acted swiftly and decisively and most likely saved the lives of other officers as Dorner’s manifesto was clear that he intended on dying.
The murderous rampage by Dorner would leave four people dead — including two police officers — and three more officers severely wounded. These are only a few stories of the heroism that brought this cop killer to ground.
There are many examples of what went right in those days of LAPD’s largest manhunt. However, this is only a small sampling of the tenacity and bravery that every American law officer is willing to put forward when the time calls.
I’ve studied the encounters and mistakes made by various agencies and officers as well in this incident. Those mistakes — some of which were inexcusable — are also lessons from which we can learn.
Today though, we will remember those officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice to stop a man that targeted their own.
These LEOs are true heroes, and I am honored to have served in the same profession as they.