The Idaho Statesman recently asked Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson about the Christopher Dorner case in Los Angeles and how those officers were responding to the threat of being stalked by a disgruntled ex-cop suspected of killing police officials and family members. The 33-year-old Dorner is a former Los Angeles police officer who is accused of killing the daughter and fiance of a retired officer, and shooting at three other officers, killing one.
In their pursuit of Dorner, at least seven police officers opened fire on what turned out to be a mother and daughter delivering newspapers down a quiet residential street earlier this week, law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Times.
Here is what Masterson had to say.
Here in Boise, Idaho, 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 which bring breaking news to our home computers and mobile devices.
As chief of Idahos 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 thoroughly review our security plans.
After a 20-plus police car pursuit in Ohio resulted in over 137 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 on '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 whats 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 fiancé, that he reportedly ambushed other officers, injuring one and killing another. Later we heard of two incidents of officers encountering citizens using deadly force. Its 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 hes killing not just his former co-workers, but their families, and hes not in the workplace, but on the streets and outside homes.
Were 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 whats remarkable is most of the time, we do.
But some of the images were seeing come out of Southern California dont 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 doesnt 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 were seeing in Southern California this week 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 thats what needed in out-of-control situations. I have the greatest confidence our officers will do exactly that.
Its 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.