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Dorner, one year later: 7 lessons learned from a murderer

The next Chris Dorner may already be out there plotting — what are you doing to prepare?

It’s been a year since Christopher Dorner killed two police officers and wounded three more. He also deliberately ambushed and killed the beloved daughter of a retired police captain, whose only offense was to serve as counsel to Dorner.

Hard lessons can be (and should be) learned from this terrible tragedy.

1.) Your Potential Adversaries Are Training Hard and Often — Are You?
Dorner had been highly trained in the use of firearms and tactics during his service in the United States Navy, as well as during his brief tenure on the Los Angeles Police Department. He arrogantly predicted success in his impending killing spree when he wrote, “I know your TTP’s (Tactics, techniques and procedures.).”

Too many police officers are satisfied to train at entry level and then only follow up on that training when their department pays them to do so. Your goal at training should not be to qualify on the range, but to prepare to prevail in the real world against threats like Christopher Dorner.

Make an investment in your personal survival. Supplement your departmental training by training on your own dime and on your own time.

2.) There is a Need for Courageous Supervision
A field training officer told Dorner in advance that he would be receiving a substandard performance evaluation from the FTO. The evaluation identified areas he needed to improve upon. Instead of looking toward self-improvement, Dorner filed a retaliatory complaint against his field training officer.

The investigation triggered by Dorner’s complaint revealed he had lied about his field training officer in the complaint, and this lie ultimately resulted in Dorner’s termination. The investigation after Dorner’s appeal on his termination sustained his firing. An independent investigation after Dorner’s killing spree reaffirmed Dorner’s firing.

Using 20/20 hindsight, a reasonable person would have to conclude that Dorner’s killing spree sustained the concerns of the field training officer.

The majority of officers in this profession honor the badge they are wearing. There are a few who possess a flawed character, and yet they manage to successfully navigate through a maze of background checks and written, physical, and psychological tests to infiltrate the profession of law enforcement.

The Dorner case shows that every member of this profession needs to be vigilant of those within our ranks who would dishonor law enforcement. All officers need to be aggressive caretakers of our shared professional honor. All must have the courage and perseverance to come forward and identify those among us that are unworthy of the badge they are wearing, as did Dorner’s courageous field training officer.

Proceed with caution in doing this, however, for as we saw in the case of Dorner, there exist a very few among us who are wolves in sheepdogs’ clothing.

3.) Hate + Lack of Empathy = Dangerous
Mass killers often have something in common. They possess an unreasonable hate coupled with a lack of empathy, which allows them to kill in large numbers.

Hate is the motive in many a homicide and suicide. Learn to recognize unreasonable hate as the major danger sign that it is, and use extreme caution during any investigation of someone who possesses such a hatred of a person or persons.

4.) Train for the Ambush
Most officers train for an anticipated confrontation 180 degrees to their front. Few mentally and physically prepare for the unexpected ambush from the 360-degree world. Christopher Dorner demonstrated that the tactic of choice of the criminal who sets out to kill police officers will probably be the ambush.

Here are few general guidelines for ambush survival:

1.) Strive to constantly scan and process.
2.) Always be aware of the cover availability in the environment you inhabit.
3.) Wear your vest no matter your assignment.
4.) Train your sudden movement skills. Have the ability to move laterally, forward, backward, up and down quickly. Movement makes you a harder target to hit.
5.) Train in quickly exiting your squad.
6.) Train in exiting kill zones with your squad.
7.) Train in quickly accessing and firing all weapons systems.
8.) Train in self-treating wounds, and carry a treatment option with you at all times.
9.) Train in officer and citizen rescues as well as emergency care.
10.) Physically train. Strive to be in better condition when you retire than when you were hired.
11.) Believe that an ambush can happen to you.
12.) I say it again: believe that an ambush can happen to you!

5.) Look for and Believe “The Manifesto”
When you are in the evidence-gathering mode, remember to look for the written evidence of homicidal intent. Even though that writing may take a variety of forms, it often is documented by those who intend to kill in a rambling “manifesto.” This was true in the case of Christopher Dorner.

In Dorner’s manifesto, he not only explained why he intended on killing black, white, Asian and Hispanic police officers, he also took the time to give a shout-out to Charlie Sheen. He actually wrote, “Charlie Sheen. You’re effin awesome.”

Manifestos have become a common road map through the twisted minds of mass killers. Remember, however, a map is more effective when utilized before the journey starts, rather than at its end. Lives can be saved by finding the manifesto before the event and, when you do, by proceeding as if you believe it.

6.) Have a Tactical Option for the Barricaded Gunman
Every officer in the nation should have the capability of calling out a fully equipped tactical team, including negotiators, to deal with the barricaded gunman.

7.) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Are you sharp enough to face the likes of a Christopher Dorner?

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

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