Promising Practice:
Learning from Other Agencies


In addition to debriefing their own critical incidents, first-line supervisors can often learn valuable lessons by examining the experiences of other agencies in managing critical incidents. 

These types of analyses of outside agencies do not replace the need to perform debriefs and after-action reviews of how your agency handled a critical incident. Rather, these external analyses can supplement your internal reviews and help you identify and prepare for different contingencies in the future. 

For example, if another agency recently handled a type of critical incident that your department has not confronted before, it can be valuable to study what that agency faced and how it responded. Such an analysis can reveal the need for new or different training, equipment, or tactics in your agency should you be presented with a similar situation. 

NYPD officer gives all clear near MTA trainTo conduct these external reviews, it is important to assemble as much information as possible about the critical incident and the other agency’s response. This could include after-action reports, video of the incident (both open source and body-worn camera, if available), and any other documents that may be informative. If the other agency is willing to assist, it would also be valuable to debrief the incident with a first-line supervisor from that agency. 

Once the background information has been collected and analyzed, first-line supervisors can present it to their teams or during roll calls and ask a series of “what if” questions:

  • If this same type of incident were to take place in our jurisdiction, what would our response look like?
  • What did the other agency do well that we could try to replicate?
  • What might we try to do differently?
  • Do we have the necessary training, equipment, and other resources to effectively handle this type of situation? And if not, how do we plug those gaps?
  • How would we measure success in this type of incident?

Remember: the purpose here is not to critique how the other agency performed. Instead, it is to make your own agency better prepared and improve your performance by learning from the experiences of someone else.

One potential area where FLSs could apply this approach is the response to the demonstrations and riots that occurred in the summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other high-profile incidents. Several agencies have produced and made public after-action reports about their response to the demonstrations and riots. Studying those after-action reports and asking some “what if” questions could help FLSs better plan for and manage similar incidents involving their agencies in the future.


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