On the Oakland Shooting Report

Note: I was planning a tribal crime post for today, but I need to do some additional reading to succinctly state my perspective.

In the meantime, I offer this.


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Late last week, a report produced by the Independent Board of Inquiry into the Oakland Police Department was released to the public.

This board, comprised of police professionals from other agencies including the Los Angeles Police Department, was tasked with investigating the March 21 (2009) tragic shootings of four Oakland police officers.

In describing the report, news outlets offered these headlines:

Police missteps linked to Oakland officers' deaths, report finds

Report rips police decisions on day four Oakland officers were fatally shot

Report On OPD Officer Slayings Notes Major Errors

I prefer to skim the news articles and go directly to these reports when possible (unfortunately, many news organizations don't provide the source document, so it is up to the reader to search).

The Board's report contains support and criticism for actions that day, and is an educational read for the public in providing perspective of the chaos that is represented in these life-and-death events.

In the following important excerpt, a team of officers had been formed to enter an apartment where authorities were uncertain if the shooting suspect was hiding.

Evidently, commanders did not expect to find the gunman in the apartment. The primary motivation for the entry was to clear the residence so a K-9 unit could finish the track of the suspect from the initial shooting site past this dwelling:

...The ad hoc Entry Team moved into position at 3:02 pm. The suspect's door was forced open and Sergeant #4 entered first, followed by Sergeant #3. As Sergent #3 entered, he was mortally wounded. Sergeant #4 was shot and wounded in the shoulder.

The Entry Team had not yet fired a shot, unable to identify a target, and they continued to move into the poorly illuminated front room.

Unexpectedly, a female started screaming and emerged from the bathroom (the general direction from where the shots were being fired at police), and ran past the oncoming Entry Team.

Surprised Entry Team members alerted on her as a possible shooter but held their fire while they assessed the threat she posed as she ran yelling past them into the outer hallway..." (5)
After seeing two sergeants shot in front of them by a hidden assailant in a dark apartment, officers had to decide in an instant whether the female running at them screaming was a danger or not.

They made an amazing call, as the sprinting woman was not armed, and she escaped the incident unharmed.

It is unfortunate that a reader must delve into the articles and the original report to extract this positive amid all the negative coverage of the incident response.

8 comments:

Bob G. said...

Slamdunk:
If there is ONE thing I can take away from this "new-age lame stream media", it's that it's not really all about providing facts and truth AS MUCH as it IS about reader/viewership and selling newspapers (or air time) with sensationalistic "headlines".

I think what this entry team did ("on the fly", as we used to call it) was nothing less than miraculous.
Now, I wasn't there, but what was portrayed in the report speaks a lot to the integrity and training of those officers, who acted in the most professional manner possible.

Good post.

 ALH said...

Great reporting work. It's great that you found the whole story and alerted the public to what really happened. This is the kind of journalistic quality I would like to see in mainstream media. I always enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for supplying me with information and interesting material in a well-written package :)

And thanks for your comment on my recent post! I always enjoy hearing your take! And no, I did not write this one under the bridge, but I did write the 'inscription' part there :) The rest was all done in my comfy green chair where most of my writing occurs.

J. J. in Phila said...

I just read the summary, but, as you said, there were good and not so good elements.

I seldom criticize split second decisions in rapidly changing emergency situations. I would have understood firing on a screaming woman rushing police officers from the general area where shots are fired. That officer showed exceptional resolve in not shooting.

jaymiethorne said...

I wasn't sure where to leave this comment but I wanted to thank you for what you are doing. My friend's brother was recently murdered and I see how important it is to her that the case be actively investigated. There is great comfort in knowing that others are also eager to solve crimes. You never know when something posted might trigger the right question and help bring justice. Having also spent time as a Victim Advocate I appreciate your journalistic integrity. I've seen the media misrepresent information in ways that have risked investigations and ruined lives. Kudos for a job well done. Thank you again.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I also read that report. I heard about it from another police blog so I did not have to wade the purple prose and yellow journalism to see it.

Peer review is the best review. Public disclosure is the best disclosure. I wish the press would respect the careful process that Oakland followed.

Likewise, you bring out good points in what they did and I am glad to see this report through your eyes.

Ann T.

Slamdunk said...

I appreicate the feedback all.

@ALH: Thanks for the clarification--a smart concept and I have not been able to find my "bridge".

@ Jaymiethorne: I'll pray for your friend's family as that must be a terrible burden.

Anonymous said...

Yes, those headlines left much to be desired. The WORSE thing was an Oakland City Councilwoman who was interviewed on TV talking about reprimands, firings, and questioning if the situation was appropriately handled. I'm not putting my words together well here but it really struck me that she has NO idea what that situation was and she was willing to ruin people's lives over what she has NO idea about even after reading the report.

On the other hand, it made me love the new OPD Chief (who was not there in March) when he said they would read the report carefully, take necessary corrective steps in the department if necessary, and continue to train the excellent officers in the dept.

Basically, you KNEW that the Chief is standing behind his men 100% but is not afraid to make changes if necessary, whereas the councilwoman was just ready to toss the axe around to make it look like she was "doing something" for the community. Lord, help me!!

Slamdunk said...

I appreciate the comment and additional insight Anonymous. I don't live anywhere near Oakland and am dependent on what I read for information--and obviously some of what is available to read is garbage.