The North Hollywood Shootout

In the midst of the hullabaloo recently, a major historical even has been largely overlooked.

On February 28, 1997, a huge shootout took place in North Hollywood (Los Angeles) California. On one side were two heavily armed and armored bank robbers. On the other side were hundreds of Los Angeles Police Officers. The shootout lasted about 45 minutes and estimates of the rounds fired go to almost 2,000. In the end, both robbers were killed and numerous police officers were injured, fortunately, none fatally.

In a short CNN video presentation, Rick Massa, former LAPD SWAT Officer who was on the scene, commented:

“If this were to happen today, this would be over before SWAT would get there. As a result of the shooting, there are rifles in all the police cars, in all of the stations, all police officers are trained with assault rifles, to be able to handle this type of a situation.”

However, the recent events have shown us that’s not true at all. Changing tools and tactics don’t really change policing. As with any large group or organization, culture and people are the agents of change

The North Hollywood shootout is very well documented. The most detailed account is the LAPD Use of Force Review.  It was submitted to the Los Angeles Board Of Police Commissioners fifteen months after the incident.

Last year, the Los Angeles Times published a retrospective on the shootout. In it, Retired LAPD Capt. Greg Meyer, an expert in police tactics and training, said “You never know when something like that is going to happen in your city or your town, and you need to be prepared.”

But what constitutes ‘being prepared?’

If a major event takes place, such as the North Hollywood Shootout, but the lessons learned are forgotten, did any learning actually take place? A concrete example is that school systems in Connecticut have largely forgotten the lessons of the Sandy Hook shooting, or are at least ignoring them.

So, if people and the culture of relying on others, the Government in general, or the police and SWAT in particular, continues or even increases, has anything changed? Not really. As John Farnam likes to say:

You’re on your own.

I would add that you always have been, and you always will be.

This is a contemporary news video of the North Hollywood shootout. Parts of it may be disturbing.


4 responses

  1. Excellent info. As my friend Jim Higginbotham told me in a class “ hope for Wimpy prepare for Cole.” Hope you meet wimpy the guy ate hamburgers and was scared of his shadow from Popeye. Prepare for Cole Younger who was mean as snake and shoot to bits and still lived.

  2. Performance is best when it is based on a solid foundation of prior preparation and training. Much of this is the individual’s responsibility. The agency, however, also bears a significant responsibility for ensuring the necessary training is provided—realistic ongoing training The agency must also suppprt it’s men and women by establishing the standards of performance expected in the most likely worst case scenarios it’s officers may have to face. Today, this includes (sadly) the active shooter.

  3. […] North Hollywood Shootout (Tactical Professor) […]

%d bloggers like this: