After action report of March 2009 shooting of four Oakland Police Department officers

On Saturday, March 21, 2009, a parolee recently released from prison murdered four Oakland Police Department (OPD) veteran personnel. This incident was the deadliest occurrence in the history of the OPD and one of the most significant law enforcement losses in the State of California and the nation. Acting Chief of Police Howard Jordan ordered that an independent review be conducted to understand how this happened and what can be done to prevent a future recurrence.

Acting Chief Jordan convened a board of outside experts to review the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. The Board of Inquiry was composed of senior leaders from outside agencies who were considered experts in tactical procedures and in investigating large-scale critical incidents. In order to inform their findings and recommendations, the Board of Inquiry reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, audio tapes, interviews of involved personnel, Homicide Section and Internal Affairs Division investigatory reports, as well as all other pertinent evidence and circumstances relative to the incident. The Board of Inquiry also convened on several occasions by teleconference and videoconference and met in-person for three days of hearings.

The purpose of this Board of Inquiry was to identify the factors contributing to the tragedy, develop findings on specific actions and decisions, review the use of force, and provide a set of recommendations (advisory and non-binding) to better inform and help the executive leadership within the OPD and overall law-enforcement professional community identify potential improvements in procedures, training, and tactics.

Among the Board of Inquiry’s recommendations:

  • Officers should receive regular training on how to safely approach a suspect vehicle so not to bunch up on the same side.
  • Procedures should be set for establishing and incident command center, with a designated chain of command and communications protocol. Training should be provided on incident command center establishment.
  • The department should review and provide regular training in the deployment of SWAT teams – establishing set guidelines on when to force entry when confronted by armed suspect.