After-Action Review

A Heist Gone Bad: A National Policing Institute Critical Incident Review of the Stockton Police Response to the Bank Of The West Robbery And Hostage-Taking

Publication Date

August 2015


Rick Braziel, Devon Bell, and George Watson


Following the Stockton Police Department response to the robbery and hostage-taking at Bank of the West—which resulted in a shootout between the robbers and SPD officers and the subsequent death of two of the bank robbers and a hostage—the National Policing Institute conducted a critical incident review of the event. The goal of this review is to provide lessons that can be applied in the field, increasing the safety of both law enforcement and civilians. The National Policing Institute assessment approach involved three modes of inquiry: document and video review, interviews, and direct observation, including crime reports and physical evidence, department policies and manuals, model policies, video recordings, site visits to relevant locations, and semi-structured interviews with SPD and victims. 50 people in total were interviewed for this assessment. The assessment team analyzed the response to the bank robbery, the pursuit, the stop, the investigation, internal communication, and SPD’s use of media, and pulled lessons learned from each part of the incident. From the assessment, the team identified four key themes: the City of Stockton bankruptcy that resulted in the loss of senior police staff and reduction in training and equipment budgets; a lack of imaginative preparation for the unusual nature of the incident; heightened emotions and the network of wellness resources SPD utilized after the incident; and transparency of SPD leadership in regard to the details and questionable decision-making of officers during the incident.

Recommended Citation

Braziel, R., Bell, D., & Watson, G. (2015). A heist gone bad: A National Policing Institute critical incident review of the Stockton police response to the Bank of the West robbery and hostage-taking. National Policing Institute.