On October 1, a crazed gunman opened fire at thousands attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. To date, 58 people were killed and 546 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. This tragic event will be discussed in another article in this issue, but I wanted to convey my thoughts on the response from the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department and its personnel. I often have to deal with the negative side of the Department: bad policies, an unfair promotion system, excessive discipline, etc. However, what I saw in Las Vegas made me proud of the Department, its executives (yes, I really said it) and the personnel who responded to help. I, along with fellow PPOA Board member Chris Lee, flew out to Las Vegas to assist our members and other law enforcement officers who were impacted by this shooting. We visited LASD Deputy Lori Kammer and Sergeant Andy Dahring, who were both shot during this horrific incident. Lori and Andy were in good spirits during our visits with each of them and both are recovering from their wounds.
Immediately after the incident occurred, the Los Angeles Sheriff ’s Department reacted. I was in communication with the LASD Operations Center, which was established by the Department at a local Las Vegas hotel in record time. It was fully operational and, every time I called, they were able to provide me with up-to-date information about the situation. We were prepared to offer financial support as needed, but the Department was “taking care of” all financial needs. I was told that Assistant Sheriff Jill Serrano authorized funding without balking at all. This was surprising, as I anticipated the Department telling us that they were short of money or had no funds available for this type of incident. I expected them to tell me that the money was already earmarked for new car stickers and gold buttons (not really!). My point is that I was very impressed that Assistant Sheriff Serrano made the well-being of the injured employees a priority. Some may say that’s a no-brainer, but in my experience, that response was far from the norm in this Department.
Thank you, Assistant Sheriff Serrano! Assistant Sheriff Serrano arrived at the hospital in Las Vegas to visit Andy Dahring while we were there. I was able to express my thanks to her then, but at the time I didn’t realize that she was going to do even more to shock me. Andy was seriously injured but was in a non-trauma hospital due to the overcrowding of hospitals in Las Vegas. Frankly, he was not getting the medical attention that he needed. With clearance from doctors, Assistant Sheriff Serrano flew Andy back to Los Angeles in King Air and then had him transported to a local hospital for better treatment. As far as I know, there was no meeting of the minds to discuss the public perception of such a decision, the liability, the PR spin that may be necessary or the pros and cons of such a decision. Assistant Sheriff Serrano put the life of Andy Dahring before all else. Again, thank you, Assistant Sheriff Serrano! I know Sheriff Jim McDonnell also made the trip to Las Vegas and visited the injured employees, and I am also grateful for his compassion and leadership during this difficult time. While visiting Andy and Lori in their respective hospitals, I was also impressed by the number of Department personnel providing comfort (and security) to our injured folks. There were four to six uniformed personnel standing in the hallways outside their rooms. How much did that cost? Who cares! Once again, the Department put the care and comfort of our injured before costs. Of course, they didn’t fly to Las Vegas first class and weren’t staying in expensive honeymoon suites. My point is that the Department did what was right and did it without hesitation.
When the chips were down and we needed the Department to step up, they did. I watched not only Department executives, but personnel of all ranks step up and do an outstanding job in Las Vegas. I was so proud of every one of them. It reminded me why I joined the Sheriff ’s Department and became a peace officer. During the worst of situations, we stand side by side and work together. All the pettiness and favoritism are irrelevant at that moment in time. This is when we are at our best. When help is needed or when a crisis occurs, we are united. Kudos to everyone who was involved in the Las Vegas response, whether in Las Vegas or in Los Angeles — job well done! But our job is not over. It is just beginning. We have Department folks who have suffered a great deal and need our support and prayers. Reach out to them and let them know that we are family and that we care about their recovery. They will have a long road to healing, and each situation will be unique. Be there to support them as friends, colleagues, partners and family. We are very good at handling emergencies, but sometimes not so good at following up. I am as guilty as the next guy. Let’s make it a point to lend our support throughout the recovery process and beyond. If PPOA can help in any way, we will be there to offer all the support that we can. Please continue to pray for all the people who have been impacted by this horrific tragedy.