Is Approval Needed to Save a Life?
As of the date of this post there is much still unknown about the gunman who slaughtered dozens of people in Las Vegas and injured hundreds on October 1, 2017.
But if they haven’t done so already, very soon the Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) will start pulling out all the stops to learn everything they can about how Las Vegas law enforcement and emergency services responded to the shooter. This is an admirable part of Japanese bureaucratic and institutional practice; if you want to learn something get a hold of the experts in that topic and squeeze every bit of information out of them.
The Japanese police will learn what happened and will revise their procedures for Tokyo Olympic Security based upon events in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. The Japanese police will practice responding to similar shooting incidents. They will also revise their emergency response manuals to incorporate the tactics and procedures that were used successfully in Las Vegas. And they will be ready to follow the manuals if, God forbid, a shooting tragedy occurs during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
But while a shooting attack might occur at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics it will certainly unfold differently from the recent Las Vegas shooting attack. So responding officers will need to quickly devise tactics to address something that isn’t in their manual. And before the patrol officers can implement new tactics they will need to get approval from supervisors. That approval will take time.
Improvisation is the Mother of Invention
But what about the chain of command in Las Vegas? The Las Vegas attack did not even closely match any scenario expected by anyone in Las Vegas. So, the police and other emergency responders had to assess the facts on the ground and quickly improvise a plan to match those facts.
According to a Wall Street Journal article on October 3, 2017 by Zusha Elinson, patrol officers quickly located the hotel room used by the shooter. Without contacting supervisors, they independently cleared nearby hotel rooms and prepared to enter the room used by the shooter. As Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo proudly stated, “Officers on their own, without direction of a supervisor, knew what they had to do,” he said. “They didn’t wait on SWAT.”
It is hard to imagine a Japanese police supervisor praising his subordinates for acting without the direction of a supervisor. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a Japanese police officer acting without the direction of a supervisor.
The police in Japan are among the most capable, most professional, most highly educated, and most dedicated in the world. But they are products of Japanese culture and society. And that society and culture follow procedure. People in Japanese don’t do anything without authorization. In fact, there is a well-known saying in Japan: “Deru kugi was utareru!”. The nail that sticks out will get hammered down!
If there is a shooting incident at the Tokyo Olympics it will almost certainly be markedly different from the Las Vegas attack. And, unlike the police in Las Vegas, the Japanese police will not be empowered to quickly improvise to match the challenge they will face at that moment.
Unlike in Las Vegas, the Japanese police response to a terrorist incident at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will likely be delayed while supervisors are contacted and plans are approved. Therefore, spectators and competitors at the games should know how to respond quickly to a terrorist attack, hostage situation, etc. Security professionals should make sure everyone knows how to respond to a safety threat in the event law enforcement does not respond promptly.
If any reader has a question the writer is happy to try to answer it. Please contact him via the email address at the top of this blog page.