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Police Self-Deployment at Critical Incidents: A Wicked Problem or a Part of the Solution

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Police self-deployment, described generally as the unauthorized mass response of officers to critical incidents, is alternately condemned or hailed as heroism. Confined to response narratives in after-action reports, existing literature provides no comprehensive definition. Without clear principles, it is challenging to prevent the problems produced by self-deployment such as traffic congestion and diminished command and control nevertheless, encouraging the ingenuity and initiative leading to heroic and lifesaving acts is equally difficult. Many of the descriptions of police self-deployment match characteristics of wicked problems, as proposed by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber. Using a case study analysis of police responses to the 2013 Christopher Dorner manhunt and 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, this thesis explored police self-deployment through the lens of wicked problems. A better understanding of the definition resulted in policy and training recommendations, including the suggestions that law enforcement embrace, rather than prohibit, self-deployment and that federally mandated incident command policies incorporate the early minutes of a critical event known as the edge of chaos.

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  • Sociology and Law

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