Commentary: Christopher Dorner and the Need for a Good Police Force

If what the ex-cop was saying is true, the LAPD should clean up its act in an effort to improve public safety and safety for its officers.

Posted: 02/13/2013 03:12 PM EST
Commentary: Christopher Dorner and the Need for a Good Police Force

LAPD spokesman Lt. Andy Neiman, left, with officer Norma Eisenman, talks to reporters during a news briefing at LAPD headquarters regarding Christopher Dorner. (Photo: AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

With the police assuming that Christopher Dorner — the ex-cop who allegedly killed four people and wounded several others — has died in a fire that engulfed a California cabin, what’s left to do now is assess what led to such a grisly ending.

If Dorner is guilty, he was obviously a man filled with murderous rage, a man unhinged. But based on a manifesto Dorner posted to Facebook before he went on the lam, the former cop and Navy man claimed there was a method to his madness — or at least a real grievance that eventually pushed him over the edge. According to Dorner, what sent him down his path of destruction was the racism and corruption of the LAPD, which pushed him to his “last resort.” Now that such tragedy has sprung forth from such disillusionment with Los Angeles police, can we expect any changes to be forthcoming?

In short, don’t hold your breath.

More than 20 years ago, after Los Angeles burned during the infamous and heartbreaking Rodney King riots, the Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department — also known as the Christopher Commission — assembled to try to establish exactly what went wrong to make that city’s citizens so volatile. As California history professor Josh Sides wrote last year, on the 20th anniversary of the riots, much of the impetus for the violence, the commission found, had to do with awful police-citizen relations:

Among other discoveries, the commission found that: "a significant number of officers in the LAPD repetitively used excessive force against the public and persistently ignored the written guidelines of the Department regarding force"; "the problem of excessive force is aggravated by racism and bias"; "the failure to control these officers is a management issue"; "the complaint system is skewed against complainants.

Today, while there have been improvements in diversity in the formerly lily-white LAPD’s ranks — almost half of its cops are Latino now, for instance — according to Dorner’s manifesto, not much has changed. Dorner alleged that other cops casually used the word “n----r” in front of him, despite his protestations. He also claims that he was expelled from the force by crooked means after telling on a colleague who unnecessarily brutalized an arrestee. These are the same kinds of problems Angelenos complained about decades ago, the same kinds of problems some people thought were over now.

The LAPD and other area cops have already wrongly shot three different people on the hunt for Dorner. And if the LAPD continues to show that protecting the police force is more important than citizens’ rights, it’s only a matter of time before another person explodes in revenge.

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