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Two Lessons from Orlando

What are some of the important lessons that we in law enforcement can learn from the deadly Orlando nightclub attack? First of all, whenever a mass shooting occurs in this country, we can’t always rely upon the news media to learn the truth. Initial opinions in sensational cases often turn out to be based upon inaccurate information. 

Like jackals feeding on a recent kill, the media industry rushes to the scene of these attacks and begins filling the airways with speculation, unverified witness statements, and poorly edited sound bites designed to capture the continuing attention of readers and viewers. News content is replaced by a constant stream of ‘talking heads’ spewing a mixture of facts, speculation, politics, and personal opinion. 

Unethical content or conduct is seldom challenged. One media guest recently claimed the Orlando shooting was another incident of workplace violence because the shooter had allegedly visited the club as a customer before the attack. For many people, this inaccurate jumbled flow of information becomes their truth and not even subsequent revelations will influence their opinions. In all of these cases, faith in the police and the criminal justice system shrinks.   

When tragedy strikes, who can we rely on for the truth? While the media industry in such cases focuses on being ‘first,’ law enforcement methodically conducts extensive investigations to determine the facts of the case. Officers utilize time-honored procedures plus the latest technologies to follow the leads and determine critical issues such as who, what, when, where, and why.   

Unlike TV and in the movies, investigations take time because each is a unique and complex challenge requiring a special combination of science and art in order to be solved. As history has shown repeatedly, the real truth surrounding the Orlando slaughter will come from the investigators who put the pieces together in a final report and not from the national news media.

Another readily discernable lesson from Orlando is the fact that our homeland is under attack from a viable enemy. Why do we need to be so specific about the threat? If you had cancer, would you want to talk to your doctor about disease in general or the specific type of cancer afflicting your body? Words are powerful, and anyone who says that words don’t count has lost sight of the very reason why we use them to communicate. 

Radical Islam clearly declared war on us in July 2012, which was just a confirmation of the Sept. 11 attacks a decade before. In fact, in a speech by then-ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he warned, “…our war with you only began now, so be ready.” Are we ready?

U.S. intelligence warned early in 2016 that ISIS-related terror attacks might occur soon throughout the homeland. Orlando and other recent incidents show us the threat is real and that American law enforcement and other first responders are now directly on the front lines of the War on Terror. 

While the motivation of the actors, including when and how they were radicalized, is important, it is not as vital as the realization that everybody at the local level must now be well-trained and prepared. By limiting the federal effort to a few drone strikes here or there, or placing a few advisors around the globe, the national government has put everyone back here at home in jeopardy. 

We are fighting an enemy who is better organized than we are and who has publically declared their hatred for us while continually attempting to infiltrate our borders, radicalize the weak, initiate acts of terror, and disrupt our daily lives in any way possible. The most important Orlando lesson for American law enforcement? Be prepared!


Chief J.T. McBride, M.P.A., C.L.E.E., is an adjunct faculty member at Lakeland Community College and a 50-year veteran of Ohio law enforcement. He may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2016

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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