Report: ‘Controlled Chaos’ In Police Agencies’ Response To Dorner Manhunt
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The 2013 manhunt for former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner was not only a story of heroism and exemplary police work under fire, but it also highlights potentially deadly shortcomings in the operation, according to a report released Monday.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports a 120-page report released by the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation showed broken lines of communication and harm caused by an army of police officers who deployed on their own to the scene.
Police surrounded Dorner in a remote cabin in the mountains of southern California last year, at the end of a nine-day manhunt for the officer who was hunting cops and their families. The only news crew there was CBS News’ Carter Evans and his team.
“There’s a level of chaos, but it’s controlled chaos,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, on the manhunt. The independent law enforcement think tank spent six months interviewing the officers involved and analyzing evidence, including the CBS News video, so police can learn from what went wrong.
“In 2014, we still have this challenge that police departments in certain parts of a region still cannot communicate with each other,” Bueermann said.
That was evident early in the morning of Feb. 7, 2013, when Dorner opened fire on two LAPD officers who were outside their jurisdiction, protecting cops Dorner was targeting. They were not able to immediately alert other officers that Dorner was in the area because LAPD car radios were out of range.
Less than 15 minutes later, just a few miles away, Dorner randomly ambushed two Riverside officers on routine patrol.
In its first public viewing, Bueermann showed Evans the car camera footage from the Riverside officers’ patrol car.
“Dorner’s pickup truck is across the intersection there next to that cab, it’s the vehicle that’s moving now,” Bueermann said.
“Is he firing now?” Evans asked.
“Right there, you’ll see the movement and the smoke.”
At that point, the two officers were shot multiple times and lost the ability to control the car, Bueermann said.
As Dorner speeds off, the police alert is finally heard.
“The suspect’s vehicle is still outstanding, it’s a black Nissan Titan,” a voice on police radar said.
It was too late — Officer Michael Crain was dead.
“It’s one thing if you have a chance to fight back and, you know, these guys didn’t have a chance,” Bueermann said.
When Dorner was finally cornered in the mountain cabin five days later, another problem arose: officers from all over the region raced to the scene on their own.
“The 400-plus to 800, depending on estimates, officers that self-deployed up that mountain were not needed. In fact they got in the way,” said Rick Braziel, lead investigator of the Police Foundation report.
It was something that was not anticipated. San Bernardino county sheriff John McMahon says the unrequested response by individual officers was overwhelming.
“Folks came from all over southern California and the incident command system went out the window,” McMahon said.
That’s because sheriff’s commanders couldn’t communicate with the majority of the cops who self-deployed. So they had no information, and the report said, “Many of the officers were out of their cars with rifles pointed downhill toward the action … even though it was more than a mile away.”
“I think the reality is they may have been pointing some of their guns at their own fellow officers,” Bueermann said.
The report indicated that it was so chaotic that some law enforcement officers said it was a miracle that no one else got hurt. Dorner killed one more deputy at the scene before eventually taking his own life. Tear gas ignited the cabin, burning it to the ground.
The one thing Bueermann wants people to take away from this report is that incidents like this could happen again.
“We have to be prepared. We hope for the best and we have to prepare that somebody may replicate this,” he said.
The Police Foundation said regional communication problems between different agencies have been an issue since 9/11 right on through the Boston Marathon bombing.
They recommended system upgrades, and at the very least, early planning to establish a communication and command protocol before the next multi-jurisdictional incident takes place. The San Bernardino sheriff is already implementing some of those changes.
LAPD’s chief Charlie Beck declined CBS News’ request for an interview.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)