Sunday, July 22, 2012
Over the past few days, the whole country has been watching the events unfold in Aurora, Colorado. From the time the story broke to the extensive coverage afterwards, there’s been 24-7 media attention. It’s time to acknowledge what a great job this police department has done under circumstances and stressors that would have been unthinkable only a week ago.
The dispatch handling of this incident was superb. When the tapes of the initial calls and radio transmissions came out, the web was full of incredulity as to the sheer professionalism of those in the communications center. These folks are so often forgotten that I wanted to list them first. They are so integral to the success of the officers in the field and the department has every reason to be proud. I feel certain those tapes will find their way into future training classes for dispatch personnel across the country.
The response must have been a rollercoaster of confusion and chaos. There were hundreds of panicked people running out of the theaters and more than 70 shooting victims. I don’t care how many times you go through mental “What if . . . “ challenges, you could never adequately prepare for this one. Nonetheless, every indication is that they did exactly the right thing as the scene unfolded. From corralling witnesses to comforting the victims to cornering the suspect, they got it done.
Dan Oates became the chief of Aurora in 2005 and has been a cop for more than 30 years. I met him in 2008 during the IACP Conference and we had a lengthy conversation regarding license plate reader technology. I remember thinking at the time, this guy is really sharp and well spoken. Since the theater shootings, Oates has been on point and his actions and words should serve as a model for every chief and those who aspire to be chief. His words have comforted, inspired and informed. He has conveyed his pride and confidence in his organization and it is clear that he is well aware that they are stretched. I listened to multiple media interviews that Oates did and marveled at the way he always acknowledged his federal and state partners while at the same time conveying heartfelt support for the working cops. His words and his professional appearance (always in uniform) should make every cop proud.
There are key reasons why the communicators, cops and chief have been so successful.
Competent: Quality people and proper training have been in evidence since this story broke.
Collaborative: You can’t get something done like this by yourself. The blending of resources in the response and investigation has been beyond impressive. That doesn’t just happen. Some of those relationships already have to be in place to get things going effectively. The dismantling of the booby-trapped apartment is a good example. Cops, fire, special investigators and all levels of bomb experts worked together in oppressive heat and got the job done. The word extraordinary just doesn’t do justice to what they were able to accomplish.
This has been a tough time and a long haul for the city. The cops have been pushed beyond all reasonable expectations and have to be physically and mentally exhausted. The shootings, the response, the investigation, the apartment bomb factory, the grieving, the follow-up, the massive prayer vigil, the presidential visit and, of course, there is the normal challenge of municipal policing. Any piece of this journey would be taxing, all of them together are unimaginable.
Show Your Support!
It’s important that our law enforcement brothers and sisters know how impressed we are with how they have handled an awful tragedy. They have set the bar very, very high and reminded everyone how essential it is to have a well-trained group of professional police officers who can engage and get the job done.
Please, if you know anyone in Aurora, Colorado or anywhere close to this community, send them a copy of this editorial and let them know how proud you are of them and that we all want to acknowledge and support them during this challenging time.