Independent After-Action Reviews of Incident Responses — Technical Assistance

Project Summary 

The National Police Foundation (NPF) believes that the most critical lessons learned and improvements in law enforcement come from thorough, independent, and critical reviews of incidents involving law enforcement response. After-action reviews (AARs) can provide particularly objective observations, and evidence-based, actionable recommendations. When completed by independent experts who emphasize learning and improvement over assigning fault or blame, AARs can set the foundation for improved public and organizational policy, procedure, training and exercise.

When law enforcement agencies respond to a mass violence attack, mass demonstration, or other incident or event, NPF’s AAR & Technical Assistance (TA) Program can provide independent assessments of the event response and targeted TA to assist the agency with focus areas. The purpose is to provide an independent, thorough review of the practices, protocols, systems and decisions surrounding law enforcement and public safety partners and the community in order to identify lessons learned to inform the first responders involved in the incident, as well as public safety organizations nationally, and offer technical assistance in priority areas. The program provides services ranging from peer-to-peer exchanges to in-depth review and analysis, all in with the underlying values of assisting departments in evolving their preparation and response to similar incidents and events.



NPF tailors the scope of the AAR, TA, and composition of the review team to fit each individual incident, public safety and government agencies involved, and the community, in an effort to provide a comprehensive understanding of the incident and the jurisdiction from a variety of perspectives. AAR teams are comprised of a diverse array of subject matter expertise with experience in areas such as law, tactical issues, mass violence incidents or management of mass demonstrations, trauma, and community activism, as well as NPF staff with experience and expertise in providing independent reviews.

Reviews harness the team’s combined knowledge and experience to analyze data, review public safety systems and protocols, assess policies and procedures, and gather stakeholder input. The team creates a comprehensive assessment report, with recommendations, promising practices, and lessons learned, and/or providing presentations to key stakeholders.

The NPF team has recently completed reviews of mass violence in Charlotte (NC); first amendment assemblies in Portland (OR); and an officer-involved shooting in Fremont (CA). Currently, we are working on an assessment of the LAPD response to SAFE LA protests and the Columbus Police Department (CPD) response to protests and demonstrations generated by the death of George Floyd during the Summer of 2020.

As a means to share this information discipline-wide, NPF encourages agencies to make their AARs publicly available in the Police Foundation Critical Incident Review Library and on the Police Foundation Incident Reviews website.



Our assessments and technical assistance efforts:

  • promote organizational learning and transformation around specific issues identified in the process.
  • cultivate communication among City stakeholders, law enforcement agencies, and public safety partners.
  • strengthen relationships between police agencies and their communities through problem solving, engagement, and partnership development.
  • serve to enhance the safety of communities.
  • allows the Police Foundation Critical Incident Review Library to provide a place for AARs conducted by a variety of organizations on a number of different incidents that are collected and can be accessed for use by agencies across the nation.



How to Conduct an After-Action Review: A Guidebook for Agencies of All Sizes

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, this guidebook was developed to support the efforts of public safety organizations as they conduct their own AARs. The guidebook defines AARs; explores the role that AARs have had in public safety organizations; conducts a meta-analysis of major incidents in the United States and highlights common findings, lessons learned, and promising practices; and provides a step-by-step guide to conducting AARs.


After-Action Review Sites:

Mass Violence

University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Funded by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte), this comprehensive after-action review evaluates the response to the incident and identifies opportunities to improve UNC Charlotte’s policies, procedures, and practices regarding critical incident responses. The review focused on four primary areas: leadership, relationships, and preparedness; crisis communication; threat assessment; and mental health, resilience, and recovery.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida: Funded by Broward County, this comprehensive review focuses on the response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSDHS) shooting on February 14, 2018. The full assessment will address the preparedness and response of systems within and at the intersection of entities responsible for the safety of MSDHS. The NPF team has identified several areas, including public safety communications, and recovery and resiliency following the incident.

Orlando Fire Department, Orlando, Florida: Funded by the City of Orlando, this comprehensive after-action assessment focuses on the Orlando Fire Department (OFD) response to the mass shooting that occurred on June 12, 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The assessment addresses OFD’s response and role in the larger public safety response to the incident. Read the assessment After-Action Review of the Orlando Fire Department Response to the Attack at Pulse Nightclub.

Orlando Police Department, Orlando, Florida: Funded by the COPS Office, this comprehensive after-action assessment focuses on the Orlando Police Department (OPD) response to the mass shooting that occurred on June 12, 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The assessment will address OPD’s preparation and response to the mass shooting, strategies and tactics used during the incident, and how the OPD is managing the aftermath of the mass casualty event. Read the assessment Rescue, Response, and Resilience: A critical incident review of the Orlando public safety response to the attack on the Pulse nightclub and view the interactive report on the Police Foundation Critical Incident Review website.

James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Wilmington, Delaware: On February 1 – 2, 2017, inmates at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC), a Delaware state prison, took staff hostage for a period of approximately 15 hours. During the hostage incident, one correctional officer died and others were injured. On February 14, 2017, Governor Carney signed an Executive Order initiating an independent review into the incident to determine what happened, and what actions can be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future. Governor Carney appointed two prominent Delaware leaders to lead this work as the Independent Review Team. The Police Foundation was selected to support the review by using its proven incident review protocol – conducting interviews, compiling recommendations, and drafting the preliminary and final reports for consideration and use by the Independent Review Team. Read the assessment Final Report: Independent Review of Security Issues at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

Kalamazoo Police Department, Kalamazoo, Michigan: Funded by the City of Kalamazoo, this comprehensive after-action assessment focuses on the shootings of eight people on the night of February 20, 2016, allegedly perpetrated by a single individual. The assessment will triage individual and multi-agency responses to the incident; provide findings, recommendations, and technical assistance; and, monitor, evaluate, and support improvements in the response to local incidents. Read the assessment Managing the Response to a Mobile Mass Shooting: A Critical Incident Review of the Kalamazoo, Michigan, Public Safety Response to the February 20, 2016 Mass Shooting Incident.

San Bernardino Police Department, San Bernardino, California: Funded by the COPS Office, this comprehensive after-action assessment focuses on the response to the terrorist attack that occurred at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, on December 2, 2015. The assessment critically, objectively and thoroughly examines the public safety response – including preparation and aftermath – to the terrorist attack.  The report identifies lessons learned regarding the responding agencies’ policies, procedures, tactics, systems, culture, and relationships; and guide other agencies and first responders as they plan to respond to similar incidents. Read the technical report Bringing Calm to Chaos: A Police Foundation Review of the San Bernardino Terrorist Attacks and view the interactive report on the Police Foundation Critical Incident Review website.

Southern California Regional Response to the Christopher Dorner Incident, Various First Responder Agencies, California: Funded by the Police Foundation, this comprehensive after-action assessment focuses on the response of multiple Southern California law enforcement agencies to the attacks by a former Los Angeles Police Department officer in February 2013. The assessment examines policies and practices that policing agencies should consider modifying regarding regional responses and large-scale incidents. Read the technical report Police Under Attack: Southern California Law Enforcement Response to the Attacks by Christopher Dorner and view the interactive report on the Police Foundation Critical Incident Review website.

Mass Demonstrations

Portland Police Bureau, Portland, OR: Funded by the City of Portland, this independent assessment examines the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) response to mass demonstrations, particularly those occurring on June 4, 2017, and August 4, 2018. The review draws on a comprehensive analysis of materials, video, interviews, and extensive NPF subject matter expertise and experience conducting reviews of responses to mass demonstrations. (To Be Released in Summer 2020)

Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC: Funded by the District of Columbia Office of Police Complaints (OPC), this independent review focuses on the Metropolitan Police Department’s interactions with First Amendment assembly participants during the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. This assessment follows the OPC recommendation in its February 2017 report that an independent consultant examine the Department’s response to the demonstrations. Read the assessment 2017 Presidential Inauguration First Amendment Assembly Independent Law Enforcement Review.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Charlotte, North Carolina: Funded by the City of Charlotte, this comprehensive after-action project focuses on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) response to the protests that took place following the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in September 2016. The project utilized a community-driven methodology to conduct a comprehensive after-action analysis of the CMPD response to the protests and to share lessons learned and best practices with the City of Charlotte and CMPD. Read the assessment Advancing Charlotte: A Police Foundation Assessment of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Response to the September 2016 Demonstrations.

Minneapolis Police Department, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Funded by the COPS Office, this comprehensive assessment focuses on the Minneapolis Police Department’s response to the protests and 4th precinct occupation following the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark in November 2015. Specifically, subject matter experts examined the entire period of the protests and police responses, including the 18-day occupation of the Fourth Precinct. The assessment includes analyses, document collection and review, observations, and interviews with government officials, community groups and various stakeholders. Read the assessment Maintaining First Amendment Rights and Public Safety in North Minneapolis: An After-Action Assessment of the Police Response to the Protests, Demonstrations, and Occupation of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct.

Use of Force

Fremont Police Department, California: Funded by the Fremont Police Department (FPD), this critical incident review focuses on the FPD response to incidents that occurred on June 1, 2016, in Fremont. The review examines the FPD response to the incidents and assesses the FPD’s process to conduct comprehensive and timely after-action reviews, providing recommendations to continue to learn from their own incidents.

Pasadena Police Department, California: Funded by the City of Pasadena, this independent review focuses on the Pasadena Police Department’s administrative review of the death of Reginald Thomas, Jr., who died following a struggle with Pasadena police officers on September 30, 2016. The review examines the Pasadena Police Department’s in-custody death case, the internal administrative review process used by the department, and the decision to use the Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Office criminal investigation process to review Pasadena Police Department critical incidents. (To Be Released in Spring 2019)

Bank Robbery and Hostage Taking at Bank of the West, Stockton Police Department, Stockton, California: Funded by the Police Foundation, this comprehensive after-action assessment focuses on the Stockton Police Department (SPD) response to the robbery of the Bank of The West and subsequent hostage taking and vehicular pursuit in July 2014. Read the technical report A Heist Gone Bad: A Police Foundation Critical Incident Review of the Stockton Police Response to the Bank Of The West Robbery and Hostage-Taking.


Project Websites


Points of Contact

Jennifer Zeunik
Director of Local Programs
National Police Foundation
(202) 721-9769

Chief (Ret.) Frank Straub, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Mass Violence Response Studies
National Police Foundation
(914) 582-5898



community policing; recruitment, selection and hiring; handling mass demonstrations; protests; racial profiling; use of force; citizen complaints; fair and impartial policing; mass violence; terrorism; after action review; critical incident; amendment rights