By Thomas R. Parker
As a former senior FBI field operations commander, I have dealt with numerous crisis situations, including the federal responses to the Rodney King riots, the Northridge earthquake and other catastrophic events, aircraft disasters, and mass murders. Yes, they are complex challenges, but having prepared for such responses alleviates a lot of the anxiety and the inevitable confusion, and experience adds confidence. To not apply the appropriate situational awareness, trained and confident leadership, response planning, contingency design, dynamic forethought, proper and adequate resources, evidenced-based strategies, and appropriate moderation and discipline can quickly turn any crisis into a disaster. And, perhaps, most important of all, the actual and potential victims of any crisis must be kept informed of what has occurred, what is occurring, what to expect, what kind of responses are underway to address the crisis, and how all of these factors impact them, their families, and their futures. Without all of these dynamics operating smoothly together, the crisis can, and most likely will, escalate beyond any ability for it to be brought under control on a timely basis. Most unfortunately, the clear and present danger of the coronavirus crisis escalating out of control is already a dire reality. Our local and national leaders need to step up and take action. Some have, and some have not. Their complacency is not a virtue.
With the ongoing lack of preparedness for our present state of criticality, the delays and dysfunctions of our response mechanisms, the nonexistence of a joint and coordinated command structure to ensure the mutual cooperation of all of the responding governmental and private entities, and the absence of appropriate levels of public awareness, any crisis will continue to grow and escalate. Our medical system has been rushing headlong toward a cliff with no ability to save itself. The unfathomable delays in acquiring hospital beds, protective gear and test kits for medical personnel — along with the development of test and treatment protocols in this country while the flames of the virus were burning unabated in other countries is nothing short of malfeasance by those responsible for leading the responses to such crisis incidents. Regrettably, that is the situation at hand.
We get excuses, exaggerations and embellishments, outright lies, and false promises from our president, who should be the national beacon of truth, calmness, leadership, credibility, action and hope. Instead, he tends to see the impending catastrophe through rose-colored glasses with gold-gilded frames. And like the Roman emperor Nero, our president and his congressional political cohorts are playing their virtual fiddles. They seem more worried about their sinking investments in the stock market. Some members of Congress have even unlawfully “dumped” million-dollar stock portfolios they viewed as too volatile to keep after receiving official congressional briefings on the crashing economy. That’s called “insider trading,” folks, and it’s a federal felony.
But, that‘s not the only hysteria we are witnessing. Weeks ago, we started to see panic buying of food, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and other items people perceived as potentially becoming unavailable. Panic buying created unprecedented breaks in the supply chain for such goods, and engendered more domino-effect panic. Rumors are running rampant of people now standing in lines around the country to purchase firearms. Addressing the economy first will not have any impact on stopping the virus. This is no time for panic. We have now found the enemy, and he is us!
It is time to stop this craziness! We are extremely fortunate to have an action-oriented governor in Sacramento. He has initiated prudent actions in the last few days and weeks that exceed anything other governors or the president were implementing. He’s being lauded in the national news media for those decisive moves. We need to give him our support and cooperation so our medical response systems and supply chains can recover and address the current virus attack. The economy will follow just as assuredly as night follows day. The secret of survival in any crisis is to stay calm, maintain logical thought processes, conserve our energies, follow competent leaders, and remember who we were, who we are, and who we will be again when the crisis passes. Let’s come together and make America normal again. There is no other solution that will work. I know, I’ve been there!
Thomas R. Parker is a retired Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Regional FBI Office, and a former city of Santa Barbara fire and police commissioner. He is a nationally-recognized criminal justice consultant, author, and court-certified expert witness on crisis response, police practices, police management, and complex homicide investigations. He resides in Santa Barbara.