National Expert Admonishes Oklahoma SWAT Team
Updated: February 22nd, 2006 11:40 AM EDT
Tulsa World (OK) (KRT)
via NewsEdge Corporation
Feb. 21--The Tulsa Police Department's SWAT Team is too confrontational, has inexperienced managers and has had to deal with the improper involvement of high-ranking officers into critical incidents, according to a national expert.
"It was a disaster waiting to happen," said Ron McCarthy, whose National Tactical Officers Association report on the team led to Mayor Bill LaFortune's placing Police Chief Dave Been on administrative leave Monday.
"One week into the review and there was enough information there for me to contact the department and tell them that I needed to get an interim report to them," said McCarthy.
In the four months it takes to get a final report out, "you could have a critical situation occur that comes out wrong and a citizen is hurt that shouldn't be or an officer is injured that shouldn't be," he said Monday in a telephone interview.
Been was put on paid administrative leave pending an independent investigation into his reported delay in notifying the mayor about the findings of the interim report.
Been said he was shocked by the mayor's action, and he denied that he intentionally withheld the report, which the city has not released.
The review stemmed from incidents that raised concerns among some officers that changes and improvements are needed, "and I agree," McCarthy said. "That is exactly what I saw."
A group of SWAT Team leaders said in a written statement that they recognize McCarthy's credentials, but they point out that "numerous mischaracterizations, misinterpretations and false or incorrect information (are) contained in his report that can and will be challenged."
McCarthy agreed to an interview but would not identify individual officers or specific incidents.
He said that based on his findings, individual SWAT Team supervisors were "too much into confrontation and not enough into evaluation and putting in place alternative tactical solutions for situations. They didn't have a Plan B, C or D. That is what is missing here."
McCarthy said that "there is a time to be confrontational, but there also is a time to slow down and evaluate to prevent a negative outcome for a citizen or officers."
His review indicates that some senior SWAT Team managers don't have enough experience to know or understand that some of the tactical things that were happening were wrong, he said.
The interim report "was not done to destroy people," he said. "There are people who have made mistakes that are good people and well-intentioned.
"It's like giving someone a race car but not giving them enough driving lessons to handle something at 200 mph," he said.
Tulsa has not had a disaster with its SWAT Team, but some circumstances were close, McCarthy said, pointing to an incident in which a Tulsa SWAT officer was improperly placed in danger but was saved by his bulletproof vest.
"If you have bad decision makers doing things improperly tactically, you can end up with people dead that shouldn't be. That hasn't happened here yet, but it was going to if something didn't change," he said.
In some cases, McCarthy said, high-ranking police officials outside of the SWAT Team "engaged themselves improperly" into the critical situation.
He said LaFortune's action Monday should be commended.
"The mayor absolutely did the right thing" by putting the police chief on administrative leave, he said. "You can't fix something unless people recognize the problem within and hold those at the top accountable."
Wait till he gets ahold of Dallas Swat.
Not all SWAT/ERT teams are this bad.
True. Unfortunately the proliferation of SWAT teams has outstripped many communities' ability to properly train them and their supervisors.
A city the size of Tulsa should certainly have a large enough pool to pick SWAT officers from and a big enough tax base to support quality training.
All depends on what the adminstration does with their budget.
One would think. However, it depends a lot on funding and the politics behind it.
i'll chime in here...since i live in Tulsa and my business is a stones throw away from the SWAT station.
the word on the street is that the situation is not as bad as it seems. there were a few individuals, in 1 or 2 lead positions on the teams that made a couple of descisions that were deemed outside the norm by the "expert"...a retired LA PD officer
there was also mention of "interference" from upper levels of the department in a couple of team callouts.
there is some talk about misrepresentation of the facts by the SWAT team members ...
the mayor..oohhh the mayor..Robert Lafortune.
quite possibly the worst mayor Tulsa has ever had..
put the the PD Chief on paid leave..1 week after the FOP tossed its support for the mayors republican primary challenger. a woman, who is currently a county commissioner and who at one time was a PD dispatcher.
the current mayor has been at odds with the PD since his first week of office..when he signed off on a legal issue that had been going on for years..to payoff a lawsuit brought forth by certain black police officers who were pretty much worthless and had been counciled or reprimanded.
the FOP has hated his ass since he has been in office.
This like the Fed's coming in and taking over operations, only dumber.
Tulsa, Oklahoma Officers Reassigned In Light Of Critical Report
Updated: February 23rd, 2006 04:47 PM EDT
Tulsa World (OK) (KRT)
via NewsEdge Corporation
Feb. 22--A reshuffling within the Tulsa Police Department and the release of an interim report critical of the SWAT Team occurred Tuesday in the wake of Police Chief Dave Been being placed on administrative leave.
Mayor Bill LaFortune, who has been accused of removing Been for political motives, said the release of the report should quiet speculation.
"It will be clear to people why I had grave concerns and why I took the action that I did," the mayor said.
The interim report by the National Tactical Officers Association criticized the SWAT Team's tactical operations and lack of experienced leadership, which it said endangers the lives of citizens and officers.
In several incidents outlined in the report, the SWAT Team is depicted as being unnecessarily confrontational. In one case, it alleges that an officer may have tampered with evidence.
Meanwhile, Acting Police Chief Bill Wells announced the reassignments of two deputy chiefs and five majors in a "leadership reshuffling" of the department.
"The SWAT Team needed a new direction," Wells said.
"A change in leadership was the first recommendation in the report," Wells said. "That has now been done, and I feel this realignment will help us move us forward. These are all excellent police officers."
Been said Monday that he had already begun implementing the recommendations in the report. But Wells said Been's initial actions didn't go far enough.
"I felt more changes in leadership were needed," he said.
The SWAT Team report by Ron McCarthy, a retired Los Angeles police officer, has 10 recommendations.
It states that the SWAT Team has "been fragmented and marginalized by internal strife and disunity" with officers believing there are "serious flaws."
An October 2005 case listed in the report involved a man barricaded in an apartment with a girlfriend, whom he shot 10 times, and her children.
After a confrontation where officers fired 30 rounds and a five-hour standoff, the suspect surrendered.
The report states that there is "no justification for the number of rounds fired." Since the suspect showed violence by shooting his girlfriend, a dialogue should have been used to reduce the level of confrontation.
During the gunfire, an officer was hit in his bulletproof vest and didn't know it, and rounds were fired at the heights of the children, risking their lives, the report states.
The wrong plan was executed, the report states, and training is recommended to address the excessive gunfire and poor accuracy.
During a probe into the case, an off-duty officer allegedly returned to the scene and tampered with evidence, which "should be of great concern to the department," the report states.
A 1999 case is also highlighted, involving a suspect thought to be suicidal. Officers found him lying on a bed with a pillow covering his eyes, a gun under his chin and unresponsive.
Instead of talking to the suspect, the officer engaged in gunfire and the suspect killed himself, according to the report.
Other incidents are outlined that occurred in 2005 and 2004 where inexperience and lack of basic training, tactical knowledge and communication endangered the lives of residents and officers.
Some recommendations from the report include evaluating team leader competency, seeking new sources of training, modifying existing command structure, renewing the practice of post-operation debriefings and critiques, and reassigning selected team members.
The reshuffling of officers included moving Deputy Chief Mark Andrus, who was over Operations Bureau, to manage the Administrative Bureau; and Maj. Dennis Larsen, who was over the Special Operations Division, to Uniform Division Southwest. The SWAT Team fell under the supervision of these two men.
The deputy chiefs will swap their positions immediately. The moves for the majors will happen March 1.
In addition, Maj. Burney York, who supervises the Special Investigations Division, will serve as acting deputy chief since Wells is the acting chief.
Been asked Capt. Dennis MacDonnell to step down from his leadership role in the SWAT Team last week and MacDonnell was replaced with Capt. Tracie Crocker.
Some SWAT Team sergeants tried to file a rebuttal to the critical report Monday but it was refused by Wells.
"I trust that Capt. Crocker and Maj. Hummel can do a fair and honest evaluation of Mr. McCarthy's report and any rebuttal that is submitted to them," Wells said.