Critic / News / Op-ed / USA

Cops Gone Wild

The other day my friend told me, “I’m mad they got my boy!”

He was talking about Christopher Dorner, an ex-cop who says he was wrongfully fired by the LAPD because he tried to report abuse and racism in the force. He allegedly went on a revenge inspired killing rampage that led to the death of four people, including two police officers.

After about a week on the run, Dorner was killed in someone’s cabin in Big Bear, CA. Although it’s not clear what exactly caused his death, the police knowingly used flammable tear gas canisters (after using less lethal ones); that led to the cabin burning down. Many people believe he was effectively killed by the police.

Dorner has developed quite a following. Since his death he has reached some sort of martyr status to some. As of this writing, a Facebook page created in his honor has over 16,500 fans. Some of these people are just upset about the circumstances surrounding his killing. But most of Dorner’s fans were supporting him before he died.

In a manifesto published online, Dorner accused several LAPD officers of being racist and corrupt. His problems seemed to start when one of his (white) colleagues kicked a (black) suspect in the head. He later got into an altercation with a couple other racist officers and was subject to a departmental review that he alleges was inherently corrupt, with a hierarchy of racists who all helped each other.

Midway through the hunt for Dorner, the current chief of the LAPD said he was reopening the investigation into his firing, under the pretext of transparency and because he was not working as chief at the time.

Whether that investigation goes anywhere is anyone’s guess. But Christopher Dorner will never again have the chance to say anything about it. The LAPD and other law enforcement agencies involved in the manhunt all insist that they wanted to catch Dorner alive and that they tried to do just that. That’s probably stretching the truth a little bit.

Police officers are known for being more aggressive when they’re chasing down a suspected cop-killer. (Several years ago in PG County, inmate Ronnie White was mysteriously choked to death in his cell, where a video camera had been disabled. While trying to evade arrest, White had struck an officer with his car and killed him.)

The fact that Dorner had broken the LAPD’s code of silence and named officers in his manifesto didn’t help his chances for survival. Imagine the public spectacle that might have ensued if he was actually taken in alive and brought to justice in a court of law. Of course, he could have died in his cell too.

Since the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots, the LAPD has been trying desperately to clean up it’s act. It’s had some success. A once notoriously racist police force was infused with ethnic diversity. At the time of the King riots, the LAPD was a 59% white force. Today, about 66% of the force is made of non-white officers. In a recent poll, the force received surprisingly good reviews.

On the surface that might be a good thing, but Dorner said racism still ran rampant at the highest levels of the force. He said his life was ruined as a result and he decided to take matters into his own hands. He might have been criminal in his own right, but he was probably telling the truth in his manifesto, even if he stretched it somewhat.

It was a misguided attempt at clearing his name. He seems to have inflicted his two hostages with Stockholm Syndrome, but there is no doubt that Dorner was a serious threat to certain people in his last days, and not just members of the police.

Because he said he was targeting racist and crooked officers, Dorner will always be remembered as a hero to some. Personally, if I was caught speeding down the 405, he’s one of the last people I would have wanted to have walking up to my car. You won’t catch me wearing a T-shirt with his name on it!

I appreciate the work they do sometimes, but I’d be lying if I said I like the police. Like dogs and cheese, they make me uncomfortable. I won’t be mourning Christopher Dorner. But the details surrounding his death don’t make me any more trusting of US law enforcement.



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