Chief Koval's Blog

Tragedy in Orlando

June 13, 2016 10:52 AM

The world sees yet another example of mass murder in the United States. This time the venue is Orlando, Florida, and the numbers are staggering.  With already at least 50 counted among the dead and many more wounded, this incident has resulted in yet another perverse "record" being set.  Whether it is ultimately deemed to be the result of domestic terrorism inspired by ISIS, a hate-induced rampage against the LGBT community or some other twisted theorem, we are reeling as a nation as we ponder: what's next?  

When watching the rolling commentaries of this tragedy throughout the course of the day, it appears to have started as an "active shooter" and then became a barricaded person with hostages, requiring a SWAT team to finally end the strife with an entry and firefight in which the suspect was killed.   While everyone thinks about the incredible human carnage these events extract from all of us, the pain and misery that is vicariously ours to share, and the continued loss of personal security that we all have to process, I wonder how our caregivers to children begin to sort and answer  the questions that invariably result from these inexplicable acts?

As a chief, I also find myself looking at these horrific events through the lens of preparation, training, educating our community in knowing what steps to take,  and having the right equipment to resolve the crisis.  MPD (along with other area local law enforcement) routinely meets with state, county, and federal intelligence fusion centers in order to stay up to speed with trending threats.  Information is shared in real time and disseminated to the field.  Scenario-based training is staged on an annual basis to see how well the integrations of personnel, combined response(s)  and communications are incorporated  across agency lines.  Technology, updates through vital telecommunications links, and radio upgrades are constantly being checked and re-checked for efficiencies and compatibilities.  Agencies routinely rehearse "active shooter" problems into their annual in-service or on-duty trainings knowing that, statistically speaking, there will be an active shooter incident  every 16 days or so in the United States . . .no mall, workplace, house of worship, school, or public space is immune.

As recently as last week, in a combined operation with several other agencies trying to arrest four suspects on the run after an attempted armed robbery in which shots were fired, MPD worked with Dane County and the State Patrol and other local law enforcement in using dogs, drones, a Bearcat,  and even a plane in locating the suspects.  While the operation concluded in locating and arresting the suspects without incident, this will still be a "teachable moment" in which some valuable lessons can be learned in moving forward to improve upon our collaborative responses.

But it's not enough.  We have to continue to provide training to our community.  Schools, hospitals, congregations, workplaces, mall security, and public spaces like theaters are all forums that are working with law enforcement to better inform our constituents on how to keep ourselves "safer" in the midst of these events; particularly since the majority of active shooter incidents are over before the police arrive on scene. There are various acronyms and tips being offered but most share a common thread in responding to an active shooter:  help yourself and the people with you to "run" away from the problem; if that can't be done, "hide," and if these first two are not possible, be prepared to "fight" the threat, using all available resources.

Events like those in Orlando are why MPD has to have a well-trained, well-equipped SWAT Team.  These officers are always training for the "worst" in the hopes of never having to deploy in a real incident.  MPD's SWAT Team also cross-trains with the Tactical Team for the Dane County Sheriff's Office.  These officers have willingly taken on these particularly hazardous duties and I thank them (and their families) for taking on these additional risks.

Returning to Orlando, we join in that community's loss and we remember that this time, it was not military personnel targeted, it was not children and their teachers, it was our LGBT family and friends.  As a Department committed to acknowledging and embracing the gifts of what a diverse workplace can mean in advancing policing and making services more accessible, rights respected, and engagements defined by dignity, the MPD Family will remain vigilant in preventing, aggressively pursuing and prosecuting those who would engage in crimes of hate toward any of our constituents.

Posted by: Chief Koval

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