The Orlando shooting of 2016, commonly known as the Pulse nightclub shooting, was a mass shooting that occurred in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, leaving 49 people dead and more than 50 injured. It was, at the time, the bloodiest mass shooting in US history. More than 300 people were inside the club when Mateen opened fire at the door just after 2:00 a.m. on June 12, 2016.
The assailant had previously reconnoitered the Disney World theme park and other venues but was thwarted by security precautions at those locations. It seems that the Pulse nightclub was not the primary objective of the shooter. The Pulse nightclub was allegedly targeted because it looked like a soft target with a high chance of success. Because mass casualty disasters can quickly overwhelm first responders, a robust mutual assistance mechanism must deal with many casualties. Moreover, agencies must ensure that police on contact teams realize that their primary responsibility is to eliminate the danger, not save the victims they encounter (Straub et al., 2017). Any delay in stopping the perpetrator might result in more victims. The Pulse shooter shot no further victims until the entry team closed in on him and fired at him, demonstrating how placing immediate pressure on the offender may shift the calculation.
The multiple individuals and agencies involved kept the public updated because of the OPD’s planned media and public communication strategy. However, in addition to the fear in the community, the release of information to viewers and followers is hampered by the news media’s desire for breaking news and the constant stream of content available online (Straub et al., 2017). These outlets sometimes report inaccurate information. Furthermore, internet outlets—particularly unaffiliated individuals posting on social media—can sometimes operate without oversight or rigor, swiftly spreading misinformation. Because law enforcement organizations are compelled to shift resources to rumor management, the speed with which these rumors travel and the public’s reactions can impede law enforcement agencies’ capacity to protect the safety of first responders’ efforts and the investigation of an occurrence. Despite the chaos created by extensive media coverage, OPD PIOs installed standardized voicemail greeting messages on their desk phones and cell phones, instructing them to leave their information and interview requests in a statement. This allowed department workers to concentrate on dealing with the first barrage of inquiries and demands and the responsibilities at hand during the event.
Based on the analysis of the incident, some things could have changed the flaw of the incident. For example, OPD command staff experienced great demands on their time, energy, and attention in the hours leading up to the Pulse incident and in the days and months afterward. Leaders should teach and equip their command staff and responders—at all levels of the organization—to make decisions in challenging situations through critical thinking, situational awareness, and cooperation training and practices.
The attack on Pulse, which included threats of bomb vests being placed on hostages and possibly hidden in vehicles, happened in one of the country’s popular tourist and entertainment centers. This demonstrates that acts of mass public violence and terrorism can occur anywhere at any time (Straub et al., 2017). Developing and implementing a cohesive strategy to decrease disruption and save lives during a significant situation like the Pulse nightclub terrorist assault requires internal and public-facing leadership. There were many examples of leadership in the days and weeks following the incident. After the attack, significant variables in the reaction to the attack were decision-making, quick information sharing, trust, individual awareness, and learning from past actions. In a highly heated, dynamic, and volatile environment, leadership demands providing a feeling of serenity, knowledge of individual and agency skills and requirements, and decision-making based on limited and continuously altering information and conditions.
As the Pulse reaction illustrated, leaders must be prepared to respond quickly, decisively, and creatively. Any emergency will possibly require people to pick between many unfavorable options, and the ramifications of their choices will be severe since the lives of victims may be at risk. OFD employees responded to the Pulse nightclub incident with professionalism, bravery, and devotion. They did their jobs well and saved the lives of guests and personnel at the nightclub. However, firefighting and rescue efforts were hampered by executive leadership arriving late or not at all, a lack of inter-agency coordination, and old rules, procedures, and protocols. Recognizing that the possibility of mass casualties and terrorist attacks is ever-present, law enforcement must continue to analyze and adjust training, regulations, and operations. Policy, procedures, practices, and training related to the police response to acts of mass public violence should be coordinated, debated, and created by the national homeland security and law enforcement. While the OPD’s tactical response was in line with department policies and training, the current and evolving threat demands that public safety agencies be prepared to command personnel to prevent potential attacks. The observations of the incident are meant to help the OPD improve its policies, procedures, and tactics.
Straub, F., Cambria, J., Castor, J., Gorban, B., Meade, B., Waltemeyer, D., & Zeuni, J. (2017). Rescue, response, and resilience: A critical incident review of the Orlando Public Safety Response to the attack on the Pulse Nightclub. Critical Response Initiative.