Crisis Management or Vice-Versa?

The word Crisis often equates to a disaster or great calamity. Law enforcement is typically called to eliminate the crisis and restore order on a routine basis. Whether it is responding to a critical call for service, such as an Active Shooter incident, or having to tactically deal with erroneous media rhetoric. Regardless of the issue, a crisis will spawn either a coward or a leader. According to, a crisis is defined as an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially: one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.

Law enforcement is typically the civilian communities' answer to a crisis. Law enforcement, as a whole, is very competent in resolving the crisis. But how did law enforcement become so proficient? One could credibly argue training, repetition and policy are the contributing factors to their success. Could it be that the reason law enforcement is so successful in handling the public's crisis is because as an organization they have dealt with handling similar situations for centuries?

Law enforcement organizations have created procedures on dealing with situations from issuing traffic tickets to controlling an Active Shooter threat. While each incident may result in a different outcome, they all possess one commonality: they were defined as critical incidents requiring an effective and well-managed response. As a notable law enforcement commander in the Washington Metropolitan area, David Morris stated, "It is impossible to plan for every potential situation public safety may encounter. One can 'what if'every possible scenario, and should plan for the X variable, yet it remains a near certainty that one will encounter situations that still defy the odds."

Realizing that not every incident can be foreseen, it is imperative that policy makers understand and relay the final plans in an effective manner. However, quite often, policy makers do not understand the difference between a Security Plan and an Emergency Plan. Law enforcement understands that if scenario X occurs then they are to follow steps A, B and C from their procedure manual. Nevertheless, this is just the Security Plan not an actual Emergency Plan. An Emergency Plan is often overlooked when it is taken for granted that the Security Plan will suffice. On the contrary, the Security Plan does not account for operational factors. For example, a practiced evacuation of a school in the event of an Active Shooter with timed officer response as well as entry points and information sharing between law enforcement, school officials, media and other stake holders is not accounted for in the Security Plan. The Emergency Plan will identify the time that it takes for evacuation and identify a needs assessment and address or call attention to the successes and challenges of the Security Plan.

Ideal Security Plans and Emergency Plans are made and constantly refined prior to any crisis occurring. Inputs from grass root individuals filtering up the chain are ideal in creating an Emergency Plan. Contributors for Emergency Plans should not be narrowed to law enforcement officers alone, rather affected components should be incorporated and a merger of ideas should create the Emergency Plan. These plans should be made, and often are, in a non-stressful environment where various components can meet integrating available technology, human resources and organizational limits to achieve an effective outcome when a crisis occurs.

As stated previously, planning for every crisis is nearly impossible but adhering to a plan for crisis planning is manageable. Effective crisis planning should consist of first understanding the organizations Stabilization Points. These points or benchmarks are not necessarily single focused. Stabilization Points may and will probably be different for every responding component. For example, in the event of an Active School Shooter, law enforcements primary Stabilization Point is to eliminate the threat (the shooter) and stabilize the incident where emergency medical services personnel can begin to treat the injured. Law enforcements primary Stabilization Point may have be achieved, but the emergency medical services staff's Stabilization Point of triage, treatment and evacuation has not been achieved. Subsequently, their crisis has just occurred. Law enforcement then will move to their secondary Stabilization Point of assisting in triage, clearing traffic patterns for evacuation and scene stabilization. These are secondary Stabilization Points for law enforcement alone.

Once Stabilization Points are identified in a Crisis Plan, then Causative Factors should be taken into account. Continuing with the example of the Active School Shooter, plans for maintaining service to the community while the Active Shooting crisis is occurring must be clearly addressed in order to prevent another crisis from occurring. This is Causative planning. Finally, Recovery planning must be created. This would be the final step in completing the Security Plan. Recovery planning restores the situation to normal operations. Victim, responder, organization and community assistance is the goal of Recovery planning.

In summary, we all know and accept that a crisis can occur at any time, especially in the law enforcement profession. Therefore accepting that Security plans are theoretical and Emergency plans are operational, as well as understanding the importance of Stabilization Points, is critical in crisis planning. It is law enforcements responsibility to understand that crisis management is far superior to management by crisis.