Boise, Feb. 13, 2012 - Late last week, Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson was asked by the Idaho Statesman his thoughts and reaction to the horribly tragic and at-the-time still ongoing search for a former Los Angeles police officer accused of killing the daughter of a police Captain, her fiance and another police officer from Riverside, California.
Chief Masterson submitted the following to the Idaho Statesman as a "Readers View" Saturday afternoon, Feb. 9th. They were posted on the Internet the news section by the paper Sunday afternoon, Feb. 10th, and published Tuesday, Feb 12th, just hours prior to what appears to be the tragic conclusion of the incident with yet another deputy killed and possibly the suspect. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/13/16948348-officials-hope-to-id-charred-remains-as-those-of-ex-lapd-suspect-dorner?lite
From the men and women of the Boise Police Department, our thoughts are with those families and law enforcement agencies who have suffered tremendous losses during this horrific incident.
(fyi - the headline was written by the Statesman)
Reader's View: Police policies backed by well-trained force
By MIKE MASTERSON
Editor's Note: The Idaho Statesman asked Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson about the Christopher Dorner case in Los Angeles and how LA officers responded to the threat of being stalked by a disgruntled ex-cop suspected of killing police officials and family members. Dorner, 33, is a former Los Angeles officer accused of killing the daughter and fiance of a retired officer, and shooting at three other officers, killing one. In pursuing Dorner, at least seven officers opened fire on what turned out to be a mother and daughter delivering newspapers on a quiet residential street, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Here in Boise, as with even the remotest of locations in our country, hearing of sensational events is inescapable given national, local media, social media and other technologies that bring breaking news to our home computers and mobile devices.
As chief of Idaho's largest police department whose highly trained officers are often called upon to assist throughout our region, I use these opportunities to challenge myself, other department leaders and law enforcement partners to make sure we are using and training best practices.
Within hours of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, for example, Boise police staff contacted our school officials to throughly review our security plans.
After a 20- plus police car pursuit in Ohio resulted in about 140 shots fired by police, I consulted with my staff and the ombudsman to make sure we had best practice policies in place to prevent it from happening here.
Last week when we learned of the murders of the former Army sniper and his friend in Texas by a former soldier with PTSD, I asked for a review of protective behavior protocols for our local volunteer crisis counselors to make sure we are doing everything in our power to keep them safe.
Citizens of Boise and the Treasure Valley should know their law enforcement leaders are always asking and talking to each other about "what if." As rare as these sensational incidents are, as responsible leaders, we are constantly vigilant to dangers that could affect those we serve and lead. It may not make the daily news, but every day our focus is to make sure we are doing all we can to make sure our citizens and officers are safe in every situation that we can possibly plan for.
Then, this week we began learning of an ex-police officer in Southern California who began targeting officers involved in a disciplinary investigation that apparently led to his termination, although undoubtedly there is more involved in how and why he left the police department than what's been reported.
Throughout the day we heard details of how the suspect is believed to have murdered the daughter of a former police captain involved in that discipline, and her fiance, that he reportedly ambushed other officers, injuring one and killing another. Later we heard of two incidents of officers encountering citizens using deadly force. It's sickening to even think these situations are possible.
Without question, losing a child is a parent's worst nightmare. Having a disgruntled, disturbed former co-worker stalk and murder your child because you were doing your job is unimaginable.
Sadly, workplace shootings are no longer uncommon. But now the disgruntled employee is a former police officer with law enforcement and military training, and he's killing not just his former co-workers, but their families; and he's not in the workplace, but on the streets and outside homes.
We're hearing of mistakes by officers who, in their earnest, search for the killer have shot and injured innocent people. This causes us all to pause. You expect police officers to be observant yet controlled, to take action based on our extensive training. And what's remarkable is most of the time, we do.
But some of the images we're seeing come out of Southern California don't appear to follow that model. As a police leader, I ask, does the end justify the means, meaning damage to innocent lives? Where are the experienced agency leaders, who are themselves expertly trained in developing strategies for officer and public safety, and perhaps more importantly, managing the mood of the officers so hyper-vigilance doesn't create additional tragedies?
Losing an officer to an ambush by an ex-cop is unimaginable. An officer, losing his daughter because of an administrative decision he made is incomprehensible. What we're seeing in Southern California will cause law enforcement leaders pause for some time to come.
The most difficult challenge we face is ensuring officers rely on training and remain controlled even when the stakes appear to counter every other instinct. In other words, when the emotions that make officers human beings cause them to make mistakes.
Even in Boise and fairly recently, families and children of our police officers have been threatened by people angry at laws and consequences. Our officers have been targets of angry words, threats, even violence. Officers are trained to protect themselves, but even greater is their drive to protect others.
But for law enforcement leaders, when the threat is so big you need all officers on the streets, what do you do about those whose very real human fear begins to control their actions instead of the mission and assignment? Officers are trained to be in control because that's what needed in out-of- control situations. I have the greatest confidence our officers will do exactly that.
It's easy to judge and the answers are not always easy. For now, we can only hope and pray no more lives are lost, as our hearts go out to all those who have paid the greatest possible price for their public service.
Mike Masterson has been Boise's police chief since 2005.