Sunday, September 23, 2018
Public safety

Justice Department to review police response to massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando

The Justice Department will review the Orlando Police Department's response to the massacre at the city's Pulse night club, federal officials announced Friday.

The Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services — which provides grant funding and technical assistance to help advance community policing initiatives across the country — will conduct what it called a "comprehensive after-action assessment" of the police department's actions after Omar Mateen opened fire in the popular gay social spot, killing 49 before he was ultimately slain by law enforcement. In a statement, Community Oriented Policing Services Ronald Davis said Orlando Police Chief John Mina had asked for the assessment, which might help other agencies.

"The lessons learned from this independent, objective and critical review of such a high-profile incident will benefit not only the Orlando Police Department and its community; it will also serve to provide all law enforcement critical guidance and recommendations for responding to future such incidents," Davis said in a statement.

It is not uncommon for police departments to ask for scrutiny of their response in the wake of mass shootings, in the hopes that independent reviews can produce lessons that prevent or otherwise help shape the response to such tragedies in the future. Aurora, Colo., for example, did so after a gunman after a shooter killed 12 people inside a movie theater during a screening of the Dark Night Rises.

The Justice Department said in a statement that its Community Oriented Policing Services would be conducting the review as part of its Critical Response Technical Assistance program. The office is in the midst of conducting a similar assessment of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., where a husband and wife, apparently inspired by the Islamic State, killed 14 people and wounded 22 more. The pair died in a shootout with police. Community Oriented Policing Services personnel also examined the law enforcement response to the mass demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer.

Timeline: How the worst mass shooting in US history unfolded at Pulse nightclub

The Orlando shooting has drawn particularly critical questions about whether police waited too long to bring down Mateen, and why paramedics were unable, for a time, to access the bloody scene.

Police have said previously that Mateen engaged with two firefights with police during the June 12 incident, then holed up in a bathroom with hostages inside the Pulse nightclub. At 2:35 a.m., Mateen called police himself, and authorities waited for hours before moving in to confront him in what turned out to be a chaotic final showdown.

Authorities so far have defended their decisions, saying that once Mateen stopped shooting, they felt negotiating with him was the right course of action. The exact timing of when Mateen stopped shooting remains unclear.

Paramedics responding shooting also never came within 100 yards of the building during that time, an official has said, because they considered Mateen was an active shooter potentially armed with explosives. Orlando Fire Department's District Chief Bryan Davis has said the department is "not equipped to handle an active shooter."

The Justice Department said in a statement it would bring in a "technical assistance provider" and use subject matter experts to assess Orlando police's "preparation and response to the mass shooting, strategies and tactics used during the incident, and how the department is managing the aftermath of the mass casualty event."

The FBI is still investigating the shooting at Pulse itself and scrutinizing its own actions with regard to Mateen. Agents had investigated Mateen before the shooting and concluded there was no cause to take any action against him

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