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Posted on Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Former colleagues: Ex-Ann Arbor police chief Dan Oates 'well prepared' for crisis like Colorado shooting

By Kyle Feldscher


People gather outside the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., at the scene of a mass shooting early Friday morning.

The Associated Press

Previous story: Ex-Ann Arbor police chief Dan Oates leads investigation into Colorado 'Dark Knight' massacre

Former Ann Arbor police Chief Dan Oates is dealing with “every police department’s worst nightmare” Friday after a gunman killed at least 12 people and injured scores more in Aurora, Colo., according to former colleagues.

However, those same former colleagues say residents of Aurora are lucky to have Oates as their police chief in the wake of such a brutal tragedy.


Former Ann Arbor Chief of Police Dan Oates speaks in December 2011 during a memorial service for his former colleague, EMU Police Chief Greg O'Dell, at Pease Auditorium.

Melanie Maxwell I

Rich Kinsey, a retired detective sergeant who worked closely with Oates and a weekly contributor to, said he had every confidence in Oates’ ability to lead such a tragic investigation.

Kinsey also expects Oates to push his investigators to do everything in their power to build a rock solid case against the alleged shooter, James Holmes, who is in custody.

“He will be all over, he’ll be everywhere,” Kinsey said of Oates. “He had this knack of being every where all at once, he’ll be on top of this. He knows what’s going on with every investigation and is demanding with his personnel.

"He’s well prepared to do something like this.”

Oates was Ann Arbor’s police chief from summer 2001 until 2005. He came to the department from New York City, where he spent more than 20 years in that city's police department.

Those experiences in New York brought new perspective to the Ann Arbor Police Department, said AAPD Deputy Police Chief Greg Bazick.

The department has predetermined protocols for many different disaster situations, often in conjunction with Washtenaw County, but Oates’ experience brought a new level of expertise to fine-tune those plans, Bazick said.

He pointed to another tragedy in Colorado, the Columbine High School shooting, as a catalyst for change in how departments prepared for an “active shooter scenario.”

It’s something Oates was ready for, he said.

“You can look as far back as Columbine. That really put a change in how law enforcement prepares and responds to any scenario with an active shooter,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing he’s dealing with now.”

“Dan brought into the police department his own level of expertise and experience,” he added.

One thing that will serve Oates well in the coming days is his ability to help communities heal following tragedies.

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said Oates helped limit the backlash against Muslims in Ann Arbor following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, just weeks after he left the New York Police Department. The same night as those horrific attacks, Hieftje and Oates were meeting with Muslim leaders to plan events the next day.

Hieftje said Oates’ activities in those initial hours helped Ann Arbor be one of the areas with almost no criminal acts against Muslims following 9/11.

Colorado Shooting_Gard.jpg

Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates talks to media at Aurora Mall where as many as 12 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo.

The Associated Press

“He was just great to have around for his advice and we did not have any incidents in Ann Arbor and other communities did,” Hieftje said. “That kind of really calm, sage advice will service the people in Colorado very well.”

In addition, Oates’ top-down leadership style is well suited to emergencies, Hieftje said.

Oates ran the Ann Arbor Police Department like a military organization and he demanded a similar amount of precision from his investigators, Hieftje said. In uncertain and developing situations, that’s the kind of person a department needs, he said.

“There will be no ambiguity. He will be straightforward and his people will be performing like a military team,” Hieftje said.

That kind of performance gives Kinsey the feeling that, even though much of the country is reeling from the shocking news coming from Aurora, Oates will be able to help the community recover in due time.

“Dan Oates is a good man, his department will take care of this,” he said. “It’s tragic and unfortunate, and every department’s worst nightmare, but they’ll take care of this.”

Listen to police scanner traffic from the Aurora, Colo., shootings.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 8:14 a.m.

I'm sure Dan Oates is a capable public servant. He's doing a job he's been trained to do at the expense of taxpayers. I expect him to be competent in his duties. This investigation should be standard procedure in crime management. I don't see any heroism in performing one's investigative duties. If he wasn't competent to handle this investigation I would hope that the system is efficient enough to have prevented him from attaining such a position. Why the media and our politicians continue to assign the performance of one's paid duties a "heroic act" is baffling to me. Such attention should be given to the single monther working two or three jobs to make ends meet while suffering the inconvenience of public transportation, the high cost of child care, and paying a higher percentage taxes on her inadequate income, with no pension or medical benefits, deserves far more accalaids than Dan Oates does for doing the job he is trained and paid to do. Just call me crazy.

Rudra N Rebbapragada

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

THE NEW SYNTHESIS : The problem of violence will not be solved by glorification of Police. The idea of violence(thesis) must be countered by promoting its opposite(antithesis); the idea of peace. Since violence and peace are opposed to each other, the conflict would be resolved when we reach the next level called Synthesis. The Spiritualism or Spirituality is the New Synthesis that we will attain as a human society. Man will abjure violence if he is confronted with information about the nature of true or real man. Violence is the product of ignorance and Peace is the outcome of true Knowledge.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

You don't drive a car to the dispensary, do you?


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:01 a.m.

I worked with Dan while at the Ann Arbor Chamber and he was a great person. Nice to find something good to talk about in Aurora. They are in good hands with Dan. Thanks for the article.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Having worked with former police chief Dan Oates, you just could never understand what brought him to Ann Arbor and the silly politics that are played here. Watching his news conference last night it reminded me of how we lost one of the best police chiefs Ann Arbor has had in decades. Then again, I'm glad he left for Aurora so he can actually do police work and not worry about a council and mayor hell bend on slashing the department every time there's a budget crisis. When chief Oates said that his staff were at the theatre within 90 sec., I thought wow! While here in A2, the department can't find enough officer to staff at a local bar at closing when trouble typically erupts. Instead the city uses other resources to quell the problem by taking the business to court to force its closure. Or, a known drug house that wasn't a problem until the dealer began selling to UM students. Took LAWNET to finally shut down the place, but not the local police where the house was located. Still recent events where there was a shooting on the westside of town, and was over with by the time the call went out, but an officer on the southside of town crashed into another motorist rushing to the scene. I only hope that if ever there's an event in Ann Arbor as there was in Aurora our city has the leadership, resources and political might to activity respond as our former chief Dan Oates has.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:59 a.m.

Sorry, But Dan Oates is the individual hired to destroy the Ann Arbor Police Department. He knew exactly what he was doing.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Sorry, Danny Oates was a disaster. (I know him too!) For all the reasons Mike mentioned and more. "A leader is not a person who orders a rookie police officer to put there job on line line by running lights and siren because he couldn't plan far enough ahead to get the the airport on time. A leader doesn't take credit for the work of other, he make sure they get the credit for a job well done. A leader doesn't mislead the public by telling them he is going to "lead the investigation" when in reality all he is going to do is take credit for his subordinates work and get his face in front of the media. I don't think that is sour grapes, just my observations of the vaunted Dan Oates. Administrator sure. Leader, never. There is a great difference. Don't let him confuse you." I was appalled when too the "then" A2 News published a glowing send-off. Can we ask Kinsey to start writing parking tickets again instead of "newspaper" columns too? Clearly a cheerleader for COP Squad with no interest in reality.

Lou Perry

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

I truly believe in free speech and relish I it. But for the first time I am ashamed of some of my fellow Ann Arborites comments on the rampage and performance of Dan Oates. Dan Oates was an outstanding police chief in Ann Arbor; he brought the modern age to the force and change doesn't always come easy. Frankly he was overqualified to be our Chief. Seems many do not know his credential and I suggest you go to Wikipedia to find out. The person who mentioned rapes and groping isn't astute enough to know Dan was not police chief when those terrible acts happened. According to him the biggest policing failure while he was in Ann Arbor was the robbery of the Main Street jeweler. We in Ann Arbor take pride in UofM graduates and athletes who have gone on to greatness; other outstanding alum from Ann Arbor deserves that respect also. The Aurora police department has over 250 officers and reports from citizens, FBI and news organizations are saying how remarkable the police response has been. So those of you who find it sport to voice uninformed criticism of Chief Dan Oates can look and hear how his expertise and experience are demonstrated in Aurora with the most horrific rampage in US history. I suggest more scrutiny should be shed on our politicians than a man leading hero's.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

Dan Oates is and was a media whore. That's it. He did nothing positive in Ann Arbor.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

Sorry Lou, you're wrong.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

Hmmm, from bailout artist to hero somewhere else. Seems like someone was well prepared - either to find better opportunity for self advancement or maybe he was just bored with Ann Arbor. We should certainly sympathize with the helpless victims of this latest mass shooting: and maybe wondering what public or private policies forced them to go unarmed and unprepared and unprotected into yet another slaughter of innocents. It's estimated there might have been 200 people in that theater, and apparently not a single one of them was armed. Why? Just seems more logical to be prepared to stop these violent attackers than to "be prepared" to clean up the mess AFTER they've finished their attacks. The details are yet to be known but I'd be wondering who left the entrance open for the attacker to enter once the movie started. Let Chief Oates find that out and he'll have done something worthwhile "for the community of Aurora, CO."

Matt Cooper

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

"It's estimated there might have been 200 people in that theater, and apparently not a single one of them was armed. Why?" Ummm..maybe it's because they don't all think that the only answer is putting more guns on the street? And what makes you think they would have had time to return fire? In a crowded theater? Perhaps the death toll would have been even higher? From what I've read, there was so much chaos not many people even knew from which direction the shooting was coming from. Just what we need...people pulling out their guns and shooting someon they think might be the shooter so we can have a body count rise from 12 to...20? 30? 100?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:10 a.m.

As I am reading these comments, it seems like everyone wants to start an argument with Kyle. He is not the one sensationalizing this, but if you watch the news? It is like get the widow on the set. I am getting more and details from updates on this tragic shooting and I am so appalled that this shooter could get the weapons he did. That shooter was armed to the teeth with rifles that could shoot more then 100 rounds per minute. I feel for the families that have to live with this. I just got an update that 11 are still in critical condition. You know what people? Pray for the victims and the 11 that are still critical and could add to the death toll. I hope not and at this point? I hope he gets the help he needs. Although when they interviewed his mother? She said they got the right guy.I guess mom is always right? So, lets stop the name calling and accusations and start thinking of those who are going to need our thoughts and prayers. Enough said.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

Appreciate the story and A2 connection. For folks not aware, Aurora CO, is not an idyllic side of Denver. While the Mall where the shooting took place is an attempt to rebuild, Aurora is a tough town. Chief Oates has/had his work cut out for him.

Ann English

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 10:59 p.m.

I first heard Dan Oates' being police chief of Aurora on the radio today. For those of us who vote for the sheriff, but not for any municipal offices, it's easy to lose track of appointees' names. But I do remember the name Dan Oates. It seems like only yesterday he was here. I don't know who was police chief before John Seto.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Good luck. They say that the suspect had his hair dyed red and claimed he was the Joker (not making that up). How the heck could anyone be "well prepared" for that?? Holy psychosis, Batman!


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:14 a.m.

Well, since these mass killings have been happening every few years and since they bear some overall similarities to anyone with tactical training - then it does seem possible we can be prepared for psychotic killers. (Then there's the question of who's smarter, the public or the psychotic killers?) I'm sure you've noticed: all the mass killers plan to attack groups which are, by definition, unarmed (or disarmed by misguided policies). If you review all the mass killing cases of the past 30 years, you'll probably notice that, every single time, the killer or killers knew how to corner their victims in what is normally called "a public place" (classrooms, cafeterias, malls, theaters, etc.). So I'd be asking: what is needed to even the odds and take away the tactical advantage we've been handing over to psychotic killers? (Notice too that detecting and curing psychotic killers doesn't seem to be working. )


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Cash? According to what I am hearing he planned this for a long time. They also are saying that he had to have some mental disorder just to carry this out. I am sorry to see him join the ranks of Columbine, the W VA University and a few others like him. Wow. Good luck to all involved. Anyone hear if they un booby trapped his apartment?


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

I just read an interesting article stating the opinion that mass murderers are rarely insane....they carefully plan every detail. Mass murderers are looking for revenge and blame everyone else for their problems. The exception is someone like the shooter of Gabby Giffords. Now he was certifiable. I wondered if he didn't wear the red hair and say he was the the police as a planned insanity defense. I note that he had an attorney almost immediately. Just wondering.....I guess time will tell.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Clausewitz told us military forces exist to further a nation's political goals by taking and holding ground and destroying an enemy. It's frightening when the mayor confuses those goals with desirable attributes in a police department.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:47 a.m.

Clausewitz? Next you'll be citing Klink.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

I feel sorry for those folks in Aurora. A terrible tragedy. But Dan Oates couldn't lead a chihuahua with a leash. Thankfully the suspect is already in custody.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Sounds like he expected professional officers who knew their jobs. That's okay by me. He will do fine with this situation.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 10:12 p.m.

A leader is not a person who orders a rookie police officer to put there job on line line by running lights and siren because he couldn't plan far enough ahead to get the the airport on time. A leader doesn't take credit for the work of other, he make sure they get the credit for a job well done. A leader doesn't mislead the public by telling them he is going to "lead the investigation" when in reality all he is going to do is take credit for his subordinates work and get his face in front of the media. I don't think that is sour grapes, just my observations of the vaunted Dan Oates. Administrator sure. Leader, never. There is a great difference. Don't let him confuse you. .02.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Yes it does, Observer. Indeed.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

how do u know Mike......sounds like sour grapes.......


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 8:51 p.m.

Roger Fraser is that you?

Lynn Liston

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

An excellent article, Kyle. I remember Chief Oates and his leadership immediately following 911. Thanks to him, our mayor and many others in the community, we did not experience the frightening backlash crimes that occurred elsewhere. He had just arrived from New York City and taken up his duties when 911 happened and his good efforts on our behalf took place in the face of his own great personal loss- some of the first responders who died in New York while trying to save lives were his friends. If Ann Arbor can send a message of reassurance to Aurora, today, it is that their police chief will do a good job of bringing the killer to justice and will be sensitive to the feelings of the community and knows how it feels to be bereaved under such senseless circumstances.

Karen Hart

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

I was lucky to have worked with Dan during his time in Ann Arbor. I well remember him on 9/11 and afterward, exactly as you describe. He will do a good job of helping Aurora cope with this horror.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

"Well prepared" - what does that even mean? Mr. Oates didn't build the University of Michigan Hospital or its trauma center - so I guess we're covered on that end. Mr. Oates also didn't raise and fund the Ann Arbor Police Department, so I guess taxpayers covered us there as well. I guess the AAPD is "well prepared" in the sense that they've put an M-4 Assault Carbine in the front seat of every police cruiser, so that if any shooting suspect is trying to escape after the fact, officers will be able to effectively gun him down from a distance before asking him any questions. We should just hope that there aren't any innocent bystanders near the suspect when the barrage of police fire begins -

Matt Cooper

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

It makes me kind of sad to read comments like these because no matter how honorably they perform their jobs, there will always be people who hate cops for no reason other than a need to hate someone. Dan Oates is a good man and a good leader. He will serve Aurora well throughout this tragic event.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

Dan Oates being part of NYPD for 20 years certainly seems capable and WELL PREPARED in knowing how to deal with disasters. NBC News mentioned that he secured and protected dignitaries visiting NYC as part of his responsibilities. Seems as prepared as anyone could be to deal with the situation. I take "well prepared" to mean well prepared to take control of the situation, handle information professionally and look at any and all possible means to better protect the public. A person doesn't have to build a building to be prepared to lead. I'm sure the situation there this morning was hysteria. In those situations a leader is really necessary. Looks to me as though they had leader in Dan Oates.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

14 innocent bystanders are dead. None were killed by police. If this unfortunate scene plays out in the local area I hope that police have ready access to a weapon with greater range than a pistol. When the barrage of police fire begins, any innocent bystanders near the "suspect" will probably already be dead.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

Kyle, Thanks for the article. I have heard many good things about Chief Oates in the past. He sure was the voice of calm professionalism this morning, even early on. Very impressive. And of course I know we all offer our sympathy to the parents/families of the deceased and the injured. The "Lone Wolf" killer can pop up anywhere. It seems almost like it is the luck of the draw.

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

These many people, and more, are killed every day. What is it that makes these 14 different in some people's minds? Is it that they were all in one place? Is it the drama? This is unfortunate, but the same can be said about any other 14 people who are murdered on any other day and in any other place. This sort of thing has always puzzled me.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

What ever happened to duelling? A fair fight. Who are these losers and why do they keep shooting GROUPS of unarmed civilians? Its not really fair when theres 30 people sitting down watching a movie or eating breakfast or leaving a night club or a hospital or a sporting event or a concert or a rally. Buuut if we had some people in positions that maintaine control and professional intergrity, that dont bail when " they dont have enough officers to do an effective job....". hmmm wonder if there are any post on this individuals media sites that coulda prevented this......


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Kyle, thanks for running this piece. Many of us do consder this of interest as we know that this could have occurred in any theatre in our country. What adds to this tragedy is the fact that many of the attendees were teens. The shooter is in custody thanks to the actions of the police. This is a horrific tragedy and I am glad that someone with Dan Oates' training and history is in charge of the officers investigating this incident. As for AA.Com sticking to local issues, any tragedy of this magnitude is a "local" issue. Colombine and Virginia Tech. were of interest to Ann Arbor readers, so please continue to keep us informed.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

He did such a good job catching the AA rapist/groper! Oh wait...


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

this guy was good in Ann Arbor , we had cops then down side was speed traps.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

You're right, Tom Swift JR: noting that the AAPD (ostensibly set up and structured by Mr. Oates) was not able to deliver justice in the rapist/groper case has absolutely NO RELATION to a claim by the same man that "he has everything covered." Nope, nothing at all to worry about.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

Hume & Kyle - Let's just say that "The AAPD/UMPD" did not catch the AA rapist/groper. Also no luck yet on the infamous "Arboretum Flasher." But ya, we're ready to get any potential mass murderers -

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

Hume - Are you referring to the incidents from 2011? If so, Oates left Ann Arbor in 2005.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Kyle, thanks for sensationalizing this tragedy. We do not need a "local" viewpoint. I am sure the 100 FBI agents in Aurora are "well prepared" as well.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

iamwrite, can you please identify some prior local officials who are now in charge of police departments in Iran, Syria, North Korea or Belgrade?

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:46 p.m.

iamwrite - Understood. We'll agree to disagree on this point. Regardless, thanks for reading.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

Kyle, I overreacted about "sensationalizing". My point is that is a local paper, yet there you are writing about a "local view" of a national tragedy. I disagree with your intent to "...give this tragedy a greater context for people here in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County." The deaths of 12 people are context enough. If your intent is true, then please be consistent and start writing about the greater context of Iran, Syria, North Korea, and the bombing in Belgrade.

say it plain

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

Well, how could *not* let us know that it's "our" ex-chief that is dealing with this awful situation? I think it's just as negatively sensationalist to call it a 'tragedy', really. This wasn't a storm, this wasn't a natural disaster, this wasn't a famine. It was a violent deluded guy who had access to weapons and fodder for his delusions and murdered a lot of innocent people. Maybe even he was deluded into thinking he was a cartoon villain. Aren't cartoon bad guys depicting as happy to imagine the poor populace shaking their heads in sadness at the 'tragedies' they cause!?

Kyle Feldscher

Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

iamwrite - I disagree with your assertion that I'm sensationalizing this. What I am attempting to accomplish with this story is to give more context to the response to the tragedy based on local figures' knowledge of the man who is going to be one of the faces of Aurora, Colorado for the foreseeable future. I think this story does this in a very level headed way with the proper amount of context on the issue at hand. You may disagree, and that's fine, but I believe this story is helping to give this tragedy a greater context for people here in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.


Fri, Jul 20, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

this could of happened anywhere, they closed down mental hospitals in the 80's.