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How Two LAPD Cops Were Ambushed at the Gate of their Police Station

The law of unintended consequences: keypad system makes cops at gate easy marks for shooter.

by
Jack Dunphy

Bio

July 3, 2013 - 12:07 am

The law of unintended consequences spares no one, not even people in law enforcement.

Until a few years ago, the only things preventing the random passerby from walking or driving into the parking lots behind Los Angeles Police Department stations were signs that read, “Police personnel only beyond this point.”  For people involved in security, our facilities weren’t very secure.

Slowly but surely, security gates were installed at all of the 21 stations scattered across the city’s 469 square miles, and now officers and other employees presenting themselves at the entrance to a police parking lot must swipe their ID cards or enter a code on a keypad to gain admittance. Until the other day, no one gave this arrangement much thought.

And then someone tried to kill two detectives who were driving into a station parking lot, and suddenly people were saying, “Well, we made it easy for him, didn’t we?”

Here’s how it unfolded: At about 4:30 a.m. last Tuesday, two detectives arrived at the LAPD’s Wilshire Division station, near the intersection of Venice Blvd. and La Brea Ave., in the Mid-City area. As they sat in their car waiting for the security gate to open, a lone gunman ran up and fired several rounds into the car. Fortunately, the man’s marksmanship was poor; neither detective was seriously injured.

But the incident left many of us in the LAPD wondering when it might happen again.

The Christopher Dorner case understandably put police officers on edge all over Southern California. Here was a guy, a former cop himself, who had already killed and promised to kill again. In looking back on it, it’s a wonder he didn’t take advantage of the vulnerability displayed last week. Consider: Dorner was equipped with all manner of weaponry, including a sniper rifle. At virtually every police station in the city, and at the LAPD’s headquarters building downtown, he had the opportunity to sight in his rifle on the exact spot where every cop who wanted to drive into the lot would be sitting as he swiped his ID card or punched in the code. Seated in a car, back to the aggressor, most likely with a seat belt on making it difficult to draw a weapon — one couldn’t ask for a more convenient target.

Which must have been the thought of the man who shot at the two detectives last week, the man who, as of this writing, has been neither arrested nor identified. And he just might be weighing when and where to try again.

Whenever I write a column here that touches, however tangentially, on the dangers of police work, there inevitably appears in the comments some rebuttal pointing out that other occupations, like commercial fishing, farming, and roofing, are more hazardous. Which is true, as far as the raw numbers go, but statistics don’t tell the whole story. In all those other trades, most of the injuries and deaths occur when people fail to observe customary precautions. But in police work, when you adjust the numbers to distinguish cops working the street from their counterparts in administrative jobs, my guess is that police work — real police work — truly is among the most dangerous occupations. Furthermore, it’s one in which you can take every precaution conceivably allowed to you and still get injured or killed. No one kills a fisherman just for being a fisherman.

As if we needed further reminding of the dangers of our profession, as the manhunt for the early morning gunman was still underway, a few miles away an LAPD officer was shot in the face and neck while searching an attic during a probation-compliance check. The officer is expected to survive, but he faces a long ordeal of reconstructive surgeries. (A probation officer was also shot but his wounds were not serious. After a long standoff with a SWAT team, the gunman was found dead from gunshot wounds in the attic.)

And once again, like the detectives entering the parking lot, there is little this officer could have done to avoid being shot. We sometimes use mirrors to check attics and crawl spaces, and SWAT teams have cameras for the same purpose, but these tools only take you so far. Eventually, someone has to be the one to poke his head into the attic, where anyone waiting with a gun has the perfect opportunity to take a shot.

Some years ago I was searching a business in downtown L.A. for a burglar I was certain had long since fled. But the business owner was there so my partner and I conducted a pro forma search for his benefit. Much to my surprise, tucked in among the boxes and other debris in the attic was the burglar I had assumed was already safe at home. If he had had both a gun and the will to use it, I never would have seen it coming.

The FBI reported that 54,774 American police officers were assaulted in 2011, the most recent statistics available, with 26.6 percent of them suffering injuries. A cop can’t go to work thinking everyone he meets is out to hurt him, but neither can he forget that some of them are.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)

Jack Dunphy is the pseudonym of a police officer in Southern California.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
The problem is that Mr Dunphy ignores the bigger picture. Scenes like these are repeated almost daily across America:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9fCK6Y0bu4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUkFqGbt3Jw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSt0UBTHCmc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd_OJmTL3jk

As a result, even normal middle-class law-abiding people now view cops as 'The Enemy'.

Mr Dunphy, until police departments and individual 'good' officers start aggressively weeding out the bad actors in your midst this problem will only get worse.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rather than looking at more and better ways to secure the police stations, maybe they should look at why so many people are starting to look at cops like targets.

I'm reminded of a shirt I've seen for sale to cops: "I'm a member of the biggest street gang in America: The Police."

Orion
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm certainly no expert in this stuff, but couldn't the LAPD use something similar to EZPASS for toll roads, where a coded transmitter in the car opens the gate?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Until the lazy, clueless, uneducated local media start reporting the positive and so many good things police officers are doing every day in every part of LA the public will continue to have a negative response to Officers. Gov Brown is signing to have 9,000 criminals released from jails and into communities. People will complain about police until they become a victim. The criminals the ones committing all the property crime, hit and runs, home invasions, homicides going up
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hell people this is simple to fix! Simply declare a gun free zone within one mile of the entrance of the Police station as well as the parking lot and the station itself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As an aside, I'd like to know the ethnicity of the man who shot the officers. We can't have any honest discussions about anything unless we talk about race and its implications. Would we have to turn LA into a war zone and the LAPD into a mindless. violent street-gang if it weren't for the thousands of Hispanic infiltrators. How many whites are members of street gangs in LA? How many homicides are committed by whites? These discussions are pointless unless someone has the guts to talk about race.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'd like to know the average IQ of the LAPD. I'd like to get information on their training, and continuing education and training. Also, I'd like to know how often LAPD "officers" are required to report for full physicals, target practice, and other DANGEROUS things that our HEROES in blue are constantly doing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
LAPD is a contemptible force comprised of Mexican sympathizers, socipaths and cowards. They devote most of their time to ticketing middle class persons while allowing the Mexican underclass maximum latitude. Their cowardice was on full display during the Dorner drama as they went underground and shot anything that moved. They're just another gang. By the end of the decade, LA will be like Mexico City and we'll have to drive with a $100.00 in our wallets if we don't want to spend the night in jail on trumped up charges.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Dear Jack, People don't kill fishermen for being fishermen...the sea does. I suppose in your mind the "elementary precaution" would be to avoid boats.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Just imagine how bad the threat of assassination would be if killing a cop were the easiest way a criminal could obtain an illegal handgun. Fortunately, there are still far easier ways for criminals to feed the black market in guns that don't involve killing cops.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have stayed with friends who lived in a gated community.
Their cars were equipped with a transponder that signaled the gate mechanism as they drove up to open - you never had to stop. It mounted quite simply on the inside of the windshield at the side of the dashboard.
Equipping all of LAPD's cars will cost a lot less than replacing a couple of trained officers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I find the recent explosion of wild hysteria about the NSA and its collection of "megadata" interesting. I wonder what rock the people worried about such a thing have been hiding under.

The local police are many many magnitudes WORSE than the NSA ever dreamed of being. At least the NSA went to the trouble of getting a warrant: Probably 99.99 percent of all searches and seizures done by local police are warrantless. Just in our small local area, a mentally ill janitor was beaten to death by an amped up gorilla local cop (it took the feds to put that cop in prison where he belongs); a preacher was shot and killed in cold blood on his own property (the county settled the case for $2 million. The nazi thug that shot him got no discipline whatsoever). Local male cops have been left undisciplined for performing warrantless body cavity searches on female suspects. And before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the procedure, I counted four traffic stops of cars filled with young people being searched in a small stretch of highway near here, the searches being performed presumably for "officer safety." The kids were seething with hatred at this treatment, and the cops have earned yet more permanent enemies.

And yet, the police profess to have no idea why they are so hated.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can understand your perspective. Today I was talking to a friend who works the drug beat in Baltimore. Recently he was shot in the foot, with the shooter mixed in a crowd, and impossible to capture or identify. He has been shot before, and his patrol car was rammed by a gang member, leaving his partner partially paralyzed. So, undeniably, you people take risks for the public benefit. However, that must be weighed against the adversarial relationship you are developing with the general population. The same friend who told me that story had another story to tell. She was driving with her husband in the passenger seat and her teenage daughter in the back. The daughter began to feel sick, so she pulled safely off the road, and put her flashers on. While she was attending to her daughter, a cop pulls up to investigate. He immediately became aggressive and was shouting at them an insisted that everybody produce ID's. For those who are curious, they are white, and completely average looking people who were driving a nondescript Ford. It was a sunny day in a good part of town. His questions that he was using as a basis for forcing everyone to produce ID's were odd. For example, he asked the husband: "Sir, are you being held against your will?" Fortunately, his wife is a social worker who works with autistics and others who are aggressive. After the cop got what he wanted, the chance to run everybody's ID's, she talked to him in a calming voice to find out what his motives were. He admitted that they are "trained to be aggressive", but left out the key part that I already knew, that the police will now use whatever it takes to run citizens' ID's, which otherwise would be unconstitutional. So they make something up. So, Jack, yes your job is dangerous. However, we had people who took much greater risks in places like Iwo Jima, Omaha Beach, and all the way back to Valley Forge to protect our freedoms. Now the police decide that they can circumvent the Constitution, because they want to? Well, guess what Jack. Those heroes who died in 200 years of wars of liberation died for SOMETHING. Take away the Constitution, and what have you got? NOTHING. If you and your fellow officers wish to die for nothing, don't expect me to mourn at your funeral.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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