Thursday, October 23, 2014

OPINION: What The Ottawa Shootings Can Teach Us About Social Media As a News Source

I have been on social media for a LONG time. In the time that I have been online, I have taken part in real-time discussions and analysis for a variety of events in the security “lane”. I’ve talked about an assortment of events ranging from Dorner to the Ottawa shooting. Each time, I’m astounded by how fast the events that transpire are posted in almost-real-time. The advent of the Internet and the smart phone has made all bystanders on-scene correspondents and social media users like myself the most sought-after “experts”. I argue, therein lies social media’s greatest drawback during these events.
  1. We get stuff wrong a lot. Yesterday’s shooting highlights some of my frustrations with social media as a news sources. On more than one occasion, various sources posted certain information as vetted “facts”. Most of those reports were false and depicted a scene far more chaotic than the one that was occurring. Why? For a lot of reasons – some of which I don’t have enough space in this forum to adequately articulate. Chief among them – confirmation bias. Many of us were simply re-posting information that solely confirmed what we either wanted the scene to be or the headline struck an emotional chord. Worse than that is another reason not related to confirmation bias but perception bias – some people re-posted information because it supported a prejudice or a political ideology.
  2. We ignored the danger of “first reports”. I have but one cardinal rule with social media as a news source remember ALWAYS  “first reports” are wrong. Seriously, the first eyewitness accounts from a major incident will almost surely be wrong. Why? Because eyewitnesses suck. No two people in an attack ever see the same thing and their perceptions will also be markedly different. The folks at the Innocence Project do “yeoman’s work” on this very issue for their clients. I HIGHLY suggest we all read up on their work to understand why we shouldn’t always trust unconfirmed eyewitness reports.
  3. We created confusion in order to stay relevant. That sounds harsh and mean. Hear me out. With some of us having “followers”, during an event like Ottawa or Dorner or Boston, it is very tempting to believe we either need to share information which has already been posted several times over or comment on that information before they can be vetted in order to appear on top of things. Instead, we should wait until the information can be verified and is still relevant to events happening in the present. These events can be confusing and there is no need to add to the chaos and potentially colour the situation in a way that is not accurate. Our time to pontificate on the events can come later.
  4. We confuse hazardous behavior with context. I get it. The bullets are flying and you want the entire world to know. I get it. Your shot could be the one that depicts the essence of the event. I want you to get that shot. I also want you to be safe and not to place first responders in jeopardy. STOP POSTING LOCATIONS OF YOURSELF AND OFFICERS RELATIVE TO THE SHOOTER AND WHAT YOU’RE HEARING VIA POLICE SCANNERS. Guys, I was a 911 dispatcher many moons ago and I’ve worked in a security and law enforcement for over a decade. If there’s one thing I know from my career, law enforcement operations can be extremely difficult for even seasoned pros to decipher and scanners are not always a good place to get an accurate account of what’s happening. A cop responding to a shooting is just a cop responding to a scene. If he hasn’t verified a shooting took place, a shooting hasn’t taken place.
  5. We assumed shooter counts and body counts were accurate. There are few things that can either mellow people out or cause even more chaos on social media than body and shooter counts. During the Ottawa shooting, the number of shooters originally accounted for by social media was up to FIVE with a couple of shooters on roofs. That depicts a much different scene than the one we later found to be true of one shooter who was shot and killed inside a building. Keep in mind, law enforcement would only confirm initially one shooter in the beginning, yet somehow there was five. How did that happen? It happened for all of the reasons I’ve talked about in this post and one that is far more dangerous.
  6. We believed people with “sources close to law enforcement”. Nothing makes me cringe more than hearing “The police confirmed XYZ” from a person on social media only to learn the source cited as “the police” was cited by the media as a “source close to law enforcement”. What does this mean if not “the police”? It simply means two things – either the source is a cop who is giving out information to the press without authorization or it’s someone the media knows is not a cop and your knowledge of that truth could diminish how you view the accuracy of the source. A perfect example of the latter is a cop’s wife or an intern at the police department. They both have access to insider information but neither of them are actually investigating anything. There is also another reality – the “source” could also be made up. No matter how bad the sourcing could be, I grow disheartened more and more as we accept this as a set of reliable information to base opinions and reactions to.
So what can we do? What advice do I have? I’d been thinking about this all day, when I discovered the tweet below. My suggestion, as I added below, is to – “read and heed”.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The “Rules” From 1829 Which NYPD Commish Bratton Carries

The “Rules” From 1829 Which NYPD Commish Bratton Carries

In 1829, Sir Robert Peel, upon founding the Metropolitan Police in London (the world’s first recorded organized police force), believed certain principles would guide his department into being professional and accountable. There were various attempts at policing before but none had ventured to be as organized as Peel’s was. While “the Met” is the first organized and officially sanctioned police force in the world, many officers are unaware of who he is or the principles he founded modern policing on. As events continue to occur which cause the public to question the professionalism and accountability of its police officers, I HIGHLY suggest any student of criminal justice and policing read these principles and determine whether their respective police departments still adhere to these principles or if they’re mere guides.
  • Principle 1 – “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”
  • Principle 2 – “The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.”
  • Principle 3 – “Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”
  • Principle 4 – “The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”
  • Principle 5 – “Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to the public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.”
  • Principle 6 – “Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.”
  • Principle 7 – “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public  who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
  • Principle 8 – “Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.”
  • Principle 9 – “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”
Many moons ago, I had a young military police officer tell me, “Staff Sergeant King, we’re cops – NOT customer service!” She was frustrated at other military members who she felt demanded more than what she perceived the job required. I understood her frustration but I also knew the other members were absolutely correct. Police officers may not have clients in the same way their security counterparts do,  but they do “service” a more influential group of people – citizens. Most cops sign up thinking their days and nights will be spent on countless foot-chases and solving major crimes. In fact, while these things do occur, they do not make up the bulk of a cop’s existence. Even in those situations and various “calls for service”, police officers must never forget the public is heavily influenced by how officers treat their requests and how they respond to them.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


This has to be the coolest undercover cop/narc I’ve ever seen in my life.


From the video’s description on
A law enforcement training film on how to safely and efficiently arrest criminals. Includes dramatizations of what happens to unwitting officers.


This is picture conveys a lot of what I’ve been preaching tweeting about our reactions to Ebola. Most of it has been incredibly ridiculous which provide interesting challenges for those of us in security. While fear drives much of security, it also can create obstacles around measures meant to protect and successfully mitigate threats.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How-To: Map Ebola Like A Pro In Ten Easy Steps

(Photo: US Army)
I have been doing a few posts about Ebola the last two weeks, in order to explain the challenges we face in security with this epidemic and where we can find resources to help. This past week, I received an email to attend a workshop held at a local college to learn how to map the Ebola virus. This was a challenge I would gladly accept and so off I went to the land of academia in order to save the world. The instructor, geographer Theresa Cleary began the course by explaining the problem facing all of the disaster relief organizations.

The Problem

With countless agencies now operating in Africa to combat Ebola’s consistent climb upwards, medical personnel operating there are finding out they face unique challenges in Africa. I experienced much of what they’re going through while stationed in Korea my first tour as a security advisor and driver. At the time, the biggest obstacle I faced was getting around Seoul. While I had the benefit of transliterated maps, I would have killed for a GPS unit. Relief workers in Africa are facing a similar dilemma. Most people don’t realize how much of the African urban and rural settings are not mapped. There are entire road networks and villages no map has officially recognized. In a situation where you have to make contact with every single potential victim, being able to safely navigate to them is paramount.

The Solution

So how do we make sure we have the areas are mapped? Well, by way of open source mapping. In other words, citizen volunteers sit at computers and outline and label every nuance of interest to aid organizations. Once the citizen volunteers do their part, validators spot-check your work and send off the information you collected that was accurate and send back anything you sent off that was wrong. In the entire timeframe of instruction to operation, I mapped over 17 buildings and a few roads. Shortly before writing this post, I mapped 7 roads and 3 foot paths. Total time to do all of this was roughly 30 minutes with only an hour and half worth of instruction. Most importantly, the software this is done on is free and open-source.


I know you’re curious how you can do the same thing. At least you should be. If you don’t think you should be, call me and I’ll explain rather vigorously. So here’s how to get started.
  1. Go to and sign-up for an account. Once your email is confirmed, then follow Step 2.
  2. Go to to see the open tasks for humanitarian groups working on Ebola.
  3. Before accepting any tasks, I HIGHLY suggest you go to and read the articles on how to navgate and what exactly the various terrain feature labels correspond to visually on a map.
  4. Once you’re done there, go back to and find your tasks.
  5. Click on the task you want and then go to the side map and click on an are that is not “done” or “validated”. It should be the grid with no coloring. Once you click there, look to the left sidebar and you should see where it says start mapping, click there.
  6. Next, click on the arrow next to where it says “Edit with” and go to iD Browser. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
  7. From there a map should have opened up in another browser where you will do your edits.
  8. Find your area and zoom in on areas where there’s a lack of data and outlines are not done for features.
  9. Click on either the line or poly pointers at the top menu bar and then outline the shapes of what you’re tasked. When done, click on the last point of the shape again. If necessary, click on any line in the shape to bring up a mini-menu that will “square” edges away.
  10. When you feel like you’re done, click on the save button at the top menu bar. Feel free to leave a comment in the sidebar. I was told to put “task-whatever the number was-hotosm – whatever feature the task called for” Go back to original hotosm screen and make sure you “unlock” this map so others can work on it. Before you unlock, be sure to leave a comment stating what you did.

That’s it. Easy peasy. By the end of the day, you will have helped out relief efforts in perhaps one of the biggest public health crises the world has seen in a while. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Also, share this information with other people.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

LIST: A Few Good “Official” Ebola Resources


As an ongoing effort to disseminate objective information to my readers, regarding Ebola, I’ve decided to put together a list of sources I consider minimally unbiased who have the data to give security practitioners an idea of how the outbreak is progressing. NOTE: I REALIZE THIS LIST IS NOT ALL-INCLUSIVE. THESE ARE MERELY SOURCES I THINK ARE IN THE BEST POSITION TO DELIVER OBJECTIVE DATA AND ALLOW FOR SECURITY PRACTITIONERS TO MAKE THEIR OWN ANALYSIS.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

REPORT: Police Under Attack – The Police Foundation Review of the Christopher Dorner Incident

When I mention the name, Christopher Dorner, among my friends in law enforcement, the mood changes dramatically. I know I will never forget the day he attacked his fellow officers and their families. I have spoken at great length here about Dorner, so I won’t waste more of your time talking about him. However, I did find the following report published by The Police Foundation. If that name sounds familiar, it should. These were the folks behind the Kansas City Police Patrol Experiment. Recently, the published this report detailing a lot what happened during Dorner’s attacks. For civilians, it’s an after-action report of sorts. I HIGHLY recommend reading it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

OPINION: The Fine Art of Failing vs Mitigating in Security

Last week, I wrote a post regarding “security myths”. In that post, I was hesitant to be overly critical of the United States Secret Service’s response to recent intrusions. In the days following my article, there have been very illuminating leaks regarding exactly what happened that day. One revelation was the intruder actually made his way inside the White House. Before the leaks, I stated whatever the After Action Reports revealed; the entire incident was not a mission failure. I stand by that conclusion for a few of the reasons outlined below:

1. Mitigation is the goal of any security program. The idea that we, in security, prevent bad things from happening is a huge myth. You can lock your doors and windows to thwart bad guys but the only people who make the final determination whether the bad guys continue are the bad guys. We mistakenly believe security is a physical entity we can see, when in fact, it is a psychological construct designed to enable us to move on from our fears to do other important things vital to survival. What we seek is protection which is only achieved by mitigation. Mitigation is what we do to reduce the potential harm inflicted on us if the adversary should show up. So the lock does not prevent crimes but its presence gives us some sense of security, while it also mitigates potential threats that may come via the doors.

Prevention is perhaps the one thing we don’t control but assume we should. In the case of the Secret Service, yes, there were lapses in security. Uniformed personnel were obviously not able to sufficiently cover the grounds of the White House. They could have done more to secure the doors and should have posted someone able to engage a threat coming for the North Portico doors. Someone at Secret Service did on multiple occasions succumb to allowing convenience to overrule the imperatives of adequate mitigation. The White House staff and the United States Secret Service did fall for the psychological trap of security, instead of following a plan that guaranteed mitigation.

Feeling safe is not the same as being safe. That being said, various mitigation tools did work like the successful evacuation of the press and staff who were in danger. Also, an off-duty agent was successful in aiding in the apprehension of the subject. It’s important to note the Secret Service’s mission is to protect the President and Vice President as well as all principles designated by law. In short, with no loss of life, this mission was accomplished solely because other mitigation tools had a chance to do what they were designed to do. It was a mess and it certainly does not reflect well on the Secret Service.

2. Prevention as a security goal and task are unrealistic. An old adage I remember from my days in the Air Force is “the enemy gets a vote”. No matter how good your plan is or how great your mitigation tools and techniques are, nothing you do will prevent the enemy from doing anything except killing him. Detention is, at best, only guaranteed to delay their actions. In fact, the only reason I believe the saying “Only you can prevent forest fires” is because I always thought Smokey the Bear was talking to potential perpetrators of forest fires and not victims. So why do we insist on believing prevention is realistic, if we’re solely addressing victims? What most people want are more effective mitigation tools but assume the semantics mean the same when they don’t.

3. Every security organization is bound by the use of force continuum. Some argue the Secret Service should have killed the subject immediately. Many of these people ignore Graham vs Connor which dictates the level of force an officer can use against any subject. That standard is called the “objective reasonableness standard”. This comes from the idea an officer can use whatever force is necessary to stop any threat as long as that force is comparable to what a reasonable officer would deploy in similar circumstances. Would a reasonable officer shoot a potentially unarmed man just because he committed a trespass violation? Imagine the precedence we could set by implying under certain circumstances it is reasonable to kill someone for seemingly minor offenses. Does a simple trespass have the potential to be more at the White House? Oh, for sure. Until a person displays a lethal “intent, opportunity, and capability” against another, we are bound to use the force a reasonable officer would to stop the threat. Otherwise, we stand the chance of the White House become a favorite spot for those looking to die via “suicide by cop” or placing the White House and its security at the center of a potential tragedy.If these statements make you upset, then I implore you to read what I said again. I never said deadly force was not authorized. It is. Deadly force can be used as soon as the threat meets those three criteria I established prior.

4. Like it or not, the White House is a tourist attraction and that complicates things greatly. Did you know the White House receives millions of visitors annually? This accounts for those who merely gaze through the fence and those who come to take a tour. In partnership with the Park Service, the United States Secret Service is tasked with protecting the White House in spite of the enormous opportunity various threats have to carry out an attack either against the throng of tourists or the President. In most executive protection assignments, the principles address is a matter of neither public record nor access. The Secret Service is in the unenviable position of protecting the President in a vastly different environment. Measures we’d like to see taken in one regard (i.e. fortifications) which help mitigate the visibility of the grounds and the principles are often not what the public envisions when they come to see their “house”.

5. In some executive protection circles, if not most, there is a delicate balance between protection and convenience. Most people who have never worked an executive protection detail don’t get how often the people protecting dignitaries are overridden when it comes to matters of convenience. I have known a many of personal protection officers who have complained they have been told to “stay with the car” when a VIP goes some place where his protection details has no visibility. 

With the White House incident, we learned a key mitigation tool was rendered ineffective because the White House Usher’s Office decided the intrusion notification system was too loud and needed to be turned off. In a world where one sees protection and is lulled into feeling “safe”, this is an easy mistake to make. It never costs you in the short-term. It won’t hurt today but you can bet when the adversary shows up, you’ll wish you had that mitigation tool in place. Is this a fault of the Secret Service? Sure, in some ways. They could have pressed the issue and said “no”. They, not the Usher, are legally mandated to protect the President. If that tool aids them in doing so, then the tool stays. Period. Is there a culture in Secret Service that enables this? I don’t know. What I can tell you is there is a culture in DC and the White House that does. Hopefully, the hearings which are going on will further highlight the need to silence the parts of that culture that negate sound protection practices.

6. Finally, stuff just happens. During my 14 years in this industry, I spent 10 in the service of the United States Air Forces in military law enforcement and security. My first few years were spent as a young Airman performing what is commonly termed as “gate guard” duties. I stood at the main gate of our installation controlling entry and exit. I was also responsible for issuing countless visitor passes. I was really good at my job. So good that I was winning awards and accolades above my peers. However, on one fateful day, I encountered something no one expected.

A female Technical Sergeant and her male guest came to the visitors’ center looking to get a visitor pass. All that was required at the time was a military ID card from her and a government issued ID from him. I checked his ID which was a passport and noted all of the details had matched. Our conversation was good and I detected nothing extremely peculiar. Actually, I did note something but I was stationed in Idaho so it was not a big deal at the time. Her guest asked if he could bring his personal weapon on the base. I told him he could not and asked if he had the weapon. He replied he hadn’t and she reassured me he hadn’t one. The question seemed one of mere curiosity in an attempt to make “small talk”. I had done everything I could do at that moment.

It was not until two days later was I approached by our investigators and several federal agents informing me several tactical vehicles were coming to apprehend him for being a fugitive – he had killed several people and almost killed a police officer. I was crushed. How could this happen? Should I have asked more questions? Would they blame me?

Years later, still torn by this, I asked a mentor who informed me I had done nothing wrong and in fact did everything right. Despite my best efforts, the adversary won. This is an unfortunate but inherent ingredient of protection. No matter what you do, the enemy will still do what he does and it is your job to prepare for that and win.

Monday, October 6, 2014

VIDEO: Microsoft CSO, Mike Howard, Talks The Benefits Of ASIS Members

This video is a bit dated (recorded in January) but what Mr. Howard says here is absolutely correct. I can attest to this, firsthand. You could say this blog wouldn’t be here for you to read, had I not discovered the American Society for Industrial Security, International. Approximately 10 years ago, I joined ASIS seeking out people who were motivated like me and who enjoyed doing physical security. I thought the people I would meet would be, at best, middle management security guys/gals. Was I surprised! I met folks from all over security and was involved in doing things like volunteer site surveys which my chapter did for a nature reserve looking to upgrade their security. This was way above my pay grade, you can say. Exposure to activities like this and the people ASIS has in its ranks, motivated me to start this blog, in an effort to educate my troops and the general public about security. The rest is history. I HIGHLY recommend you to consider joining ASIS immediately.

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