“…the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack presented unconventional tactical issues that challenged decision makers to respond to a quickly developing, complex, and highly volatile incident marked by overwhelming devastation and human suffering. The response required, in some cases, that untested strategies and tactics be implemented to save the lives of seriously wounded victims and hostages and neutralize the threat.”
“Rescue, Response, and Resilience”
A critical incident review of the Orlando public safety response to the attack on the Pulse nightclub
The Police Foundation, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, has completed its extensive review of the June 12, 2016 Pulse Nightclub terrorist attack. In the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, Orlando Police Chief John Mina asked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) to conduct a critical incident review, similar to ones done following the San Bernardino (Calif.) and Aurora (Colorado) attacks.
“I applaud Chief Mina for requesting this comprehensive review and thank the Police Foundation and its technical team for developing this report,” Russ Washington, the Acting Director of the COPS Office, said in a letter included in the report. “As threats of terrorism persist and our law enforcement officers and first responders continue to put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, efforts such as this can help save many lives.”
Among the review’s findings:
“The decisions made and actions taken by the men and women of the Orlando Police Department and Orlando’s other law enforcement agencies embody the bravery, strength, and professionalism of our nation’s law enforcement and public safety first responders as well as the strength of the Orlando community.”
“The OPD and their law enforcement partners responded to the Pulse terrorist attack in a manner consistent with national best practices and under extremely volatile and difficult circumstances, saving the lives of innocent people.”
Chief Mina, who requested the review in the summer of 2016, said he’s grateful for the tremendous amount of work that went into the report, and remains extremely proud of the actions of law enforcement and city and county personnel, who worked tirelessly, not just in the initial response, but in the days, weeks and months following the attack, which took the lives of 49 members of our community.
“I have been the beneficiary of the deep knowledge and lessons learned from the After Action Reviews following previous attacks across our nation, and I felt strongly that our experiences in the Pulse tragedy could be useful to others going forward,” Mina said.
The report – which is now publicly available in both written and multimedia format (links below) details the multiple phases of the law enforcement response in a comprehensive after-action assessment.
“I am proud of the response of the Orlando Police Department following the Pulse tragedy,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “It is important to conduct a third-party after action review to ensure our department has the appropriate training and resources to prepare for future incidents, will providing lessons learned to other agencies across the country.”
Washington, of the DOJ COPS Office, said in the report that OPD’s response was appropriate and consistent with national guidelines and best practices, and that it saved lives. But the department, he said, also learned important lessons from this event, which can be of great value to other law enforcement and public safety organizations.
The exhaustive review highlights in great detail the tactical response to the incident with a minute-by-minute breakdown of the event. And it credits the strong, pre-existing relationships among civic and law enforcement leaders in Orlando, Orange County and Central Florida for the strong, unified response.
The report emphasized the “interpersonal relationships within the Orlando law enforcement community and between Mayor Buddy Dyer and Chief Mina,” which were built over many years. Both understood the importance of providing a message of resilience and hope.
“Dyer trusted and empowered Mina to lead the law enforcement response and provided assistance if and when it was needed by the law enforcement team. When the Mayor was interviewed by the assessment team and asked what lessons he wanted to share he said one of the most important was ‘Stay out of the way of the chief – let him or her do their job.'”
“Through early statements, consistent messaging, and demeanor, Mayor Dyer, Chief Mina, Sheriff (Jerry) Demings, and FBI ASAC (Ron) Hopper set the tone of the response, which was one of calm determination, resiliency, and unity.”
“Every public safety leader interviewed by the assessment team reported that the biggest advantage they had while managing the response was the relationships they had developed over many years of working together and supporting one another, in whatever way needed, regardless of their title or agency affiliation.”
The report is broken down into chapters that examine, among other things, Leadership and Relationships, Tactical Response and Command and Control, Equipment and Training and Post-Event Victim Welfare.
“Central to the Police Foundation’s mission is our collaboration with law enforcement agencies to examine, analyze, and study critical incidents from across the nation, and the world, to identify lessons learned and practices that will inform and advance policing – keeping our officers and the communities they serve safe,” said Jim Bueermann, President of the Police Foundation. “We are thankful to the COPS Office, Orlando Mayor Dyer, Police Chief Mina, the public safety first responders and the Orlando community who gave us the opportunity to study the response to the Pulse incident. Your example will help prepare law enforcement agencies and communities as they prepare to face the challenges brought by terrorist incidents.”