The Christopher Dorner saga seems to have come to an end. But the issues surrounding this multi-layered situation should not.
Dorner was definitely not a martyr as some portray him. There should never be justification for any form of vigilantism to rectify crimes or perceived slights. Moreover, there is nothing heroic about the three murders, which he allegedly committed to address his grievances.
His chilling manifesto seemed in stark contrast with a man whose friends spoke of his good character. How does an honorably-discharged, former U.S. military officer and policeman turn to such extreme behavior? His actions don’t spring magically from a vacuum.
The answers reside in Dorner’s manifesto.
Dorner reported perceived corruption and racism within the LAPD. After breaking the blue curtain of silence, he was relieved from his duties, which he claims was due to his whistle-blowing (though he was formally dismissed for giving a false report against a fellow officer). According to Dorner, he operated within a system which failed him.
Dorner’s assertions are in line with long-held grievances that too many black and latino Americans share regarding excessive force and institutionalized racism in law enforcement. Hence, many people of color believed his claims even as they disagreed with his acts.
The allegations in his manifesto are congruent will well-known problems from consent decrees against the Detroit Police Department to the infamous “Stop and Frisk” program of the New York Police Department (NYPD) to the long history of complaints of police brutality against the LAPD (crystallized in many minds by the infamous beating of Rodney King). In fact, Dorner specifically purported that the discipline taken against him was due to holdover actors that perpetuate a system of bad policing that hail from the King era.
No grievance, no matter how legitimate, can be addressed through wanton violence. The reality, however, is that oppression breeds extreme reactions – which was possibly the case with Dorner. His manifesto should not be quickly dismissed as the words of an inept cop who played the “race card.”
The LAPD made a smart move to re-investigate the circumstances of Dorner’s termination in the name of transparency – not capitulation. More needs to be done to dig into the roots of this situation.
To bring more clarity to the matter, the Department of Justice (DOJ) should investigate Dorner’s claims, not the LAPD. No police force can be entrusted to investigate itself without oversight.
There also needs to be investigations as to how three innocent people were shot by Southern Californian police while looking for Dorner. Such excessive force furthers community mistrust of law enforcement and unfortunately gives passive support to Dorner’s claims of police abuse.
It’s a tragedy that innocent people were murdered, that unarmed civilians were shot by police, and that Dorner did not turn himself in to face a judge and jury. Hopefully, the broader issues of excessive force and institutional racism within our law enforcement agencies will be re-examined by the LAPD and other police forces – and not be buried as non-issues Dorner’s corpse.