Dorner manhunt: New report faults management, communication problems

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54774 full

A lack of solid communication across jurisdictions complicated the law-enforcement response in last year's manhunt for rogue ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, according to a report released Monday by the Police Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to improving policing.

In its report, the foundation evaluated the response of Southern California law enforcement in the 10-day manhunt for Dorner in 2013. The group called the search "a sentinel event in American policing" that revealed a need to immediately improve regional communication among police departments. (Read the full report at the end of this story.)

It also highlighted problems with operating a unified response. Its key findings include:

  • Varying levels of participation by law enforcement groups hindered a response.
  • Regional communication problems among law enforcement agencies posed a potential danger to the public and officers.
  • Command and control management issues led to officer deployment problems, including potentially dangerous self-deployment.
  • Law enforcement managers struggled with command and control issues, leading to officer deployment problems, including potentially dangerous self-deployment.
  • Social media became a distraction. Law enforcement was overwhelmed by tips while they struggled to release accurate information.

MORE: KPCC's coverage of the manhunt for Christopher Dorner

Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck reviewed a draft copy of the report and said he's aware of the communication problems identified.

“We know about that,” he said. “Especially when you spread an incident over four or five counties, you are always going to have communications issues.”

Beck said it would be hugely expensive to fix the cross-jurisdiction communication problem.

RELATED: LA County receives $154M communications grant

Beck said self-deployment was an issue when Dorner was cornered in a cabin near Big Bear.

“You got a bunch of people who want to do heroic acts, and they converge,”  Beck said. “That’s another management issue, but that shouldn’t be taken as any kind of a slight on those that are trying to do that right thing and try to be there where they are needed.”

The Police Foundation’s report made several recommendations for future incidents:

  • Upgrade interoperability now: regional communication between agencies.
  • Plan ahead for mobilization: plan for shift changes, long range communications.
  • Revise self-deployment policies: prevent dangerous over-response to high-profile cases.
  • Reach across county lines in advance: cultivate inter-agency relationships.
  • Train entire force for major events:  integrate the National Incident Management System and other major response techniques.

The police research group interviewed Beck, San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, Riverside police chief Sergio Diaz, Irvine police chief Dave Maggard and other Southern California law enforcement officers.

Christopher Dorner died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound as San Bernardino County deputies through gas canisters that ignited a fire inside the cabin in which Dorner hid.

None of the deputies were criminally charged in the officer-involved shootings and cabin fire.

Dorner is believed to be responsible for the deaths of two people in Irvine, a Riverside police officer and a San Bernardino County Sheriffs deputy.

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