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Police Brutality as Tactical Strategy

Throwing Light on the Dark Side of Dorner’s Rampage

by LINN WASHINGTON, JR.

On September 10, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “LAPD to hold meetings on use of force policies.”

Top Los Angeles police officials announced those community meetings to counter growing criticism about videoed brutality incidents involving LA police officers in the preceding months, that article noted.

On November 24, 2012 The Daily Beast posted an article with the headline: “In Los Angeles, Questions of Police Brutality Dog LAPD” reporting abuse incidents by officers of that department placed under federal oversight between 2001 and 2009 after repeated brutality and corruption scandals.

Over two months after that Daily Beast posting about LAPD brutality a fired LAPD officer unleashed a murderous rampage as revenge against his claimed unfair firing by the LAPD.

That former LAPD cop, military veteran Christopher Dorner, claimed his attack campaign was retaliation against retaliation LAPD personnel directed against him for his reporting a 2007 brutality incident he observed while on duty.

Following a controversial hearing, LAPD officials found Dorner’s brutality claim against a policewoman unfounded and fired him for filing false statements. The father of the alleged victim said his mentally ill son confirmed Dorner’s account.

LA police officials contend that man sustained facial injuries from falling into some bushes while resisting arrest by Dorner, not from the female officer’s kick.

Despite the recent record of brutality detailed in news coverage last fall, a New York Times article on the Dorner rampage inferred brutality by Los Angeles police –- brutality that sparked two of America’s most destructive urban riots – was not a current problem.

The last sentence in the seventh paragraph of that February 7, 2013 New York Times article stated: “Mr. Dorner laid out grievances against a police department that he said remained riddled with racism and corruption, a reference to a chapter of the department’s history that, in the view of many people, was swept aside long ago.”

That unsourced, anonymous “view’of many people” cited in the NY Times article obviously did not include the views of the dozens of identifiable actual people who participated in a October 2012 demonstration against police brutality outside LAPD headquarters.

On October 22, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “Downtown L.A. streets closed by protest at LAPD headquarters.”

Yes, the 1992 riots that rocked LA following the state court acquittal of the four LA police officers charged in the videoed savaging of Rodney King – a disturbance that caused over $1 billion in damages and claimed 53 lives – arguably qualifies as “long-ago.”

But long-ago does not apply to incidents within the past year like the woman kicked in her groin by a female LAPD officer in July 2012 who died minutes later while hog-tied inside a patrol car.

That unsourced “view” cited in the NY Times article is not shared by victims of the incidents triggering those LAPD brass community meetings like the skate boarder suckered punched by police, the nurse stopped for allegedly texting while driving who was slammed to the ground by two officers, who then gave each other a fist-bump for their take-down, and the handcuffed man shot by police.

While ‘many people’ certainly believe, or want-to-believe, that LAPD brutality is long gone, perhaps thanks to reforms implemented during that federal oversight period, news media accounts pushing that view without the balance of companion context comprise an element (albeit small) in the constant framing of police brutality as isolated incidents instead of as part of a long-standing, chronic and systemic issue for police across America.

At least that shabbily sourced NY Times article referenced racism and brutality, unlike many media entities that reported Dorner’s rampage without providing context beyond his crazed reaction to his firing.

The March 1968 Kerner Commission Report on ’60s-era urban riots –- the majority triggered by police abuse incidents including the deadly 1965 L.A. Watts Uprising -– criticized the news media for failing to “analyze and report adequately on racial matters” in America that included coverage of festering grievances like police brutality.

Compounding context-deficient coverage, news media reportage on police brutality rarely examines the central role played by prosecutors in perpetuating the problem.

The Los Angeles DA’s Office, for example, pushed one case protecting alleged police misconduct all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 2006 that court’s conservative majority issued a ruling experts said eroded protections for whistle-blowing public employees.

The case involved a veteran LA prosecutor who said supervisors had retaliated against him after he exposed improprieties by a deputy during a drug investigation. Those supervisors pursued the drug prosecution despite those improprieties and then bashed the whistleblower for providing the defense with details of the improprieties — something that is actually required by law.

That 11/12 Daily Beast article began with an anecdote about LA city prosecutors’ declining to charge officers caught lying about a December 2010 incident in which a woman had been beaten and tazed by four officers, one of whom videoed the incident.

Fired Officer Dorner alleged that his LAPD problems began in July 2007 when his training officer, a female, kicked a man during an arrest outside a hotel. Dorner claimed that training officer and their immediate supervisor compelled him to fudge his official report, omitting the kicking, according to court findings.

LAPD officials found Dorner guilty of making false statements, relying in their determination largely on an Internal Affairs investigation. The IA investigator had interviewed the training officer and two hotel employees, but neither Dorner nor the victim were interviewed, according to an October 2011 California state appellate court ruling that nonetheless upheld a trial court’s ruling rejecting Dorner’s appeal of his 2009 LAPD firing.

LAPD officials, in their administrative proceeding, faulted Dorner for failing to immediately report the alleged kicking incident. Officials brushed aside Dorner’s stated (and it turns out prescient) fears of backlash for exposing that alleged misconduct and also ignored the fact that he had in fact quickly reported that incident privately to two LAPD supervisors he knew ,, whom he also had told about racial slurs directed at him during his police academy training.

Officials also claimed Dorner manufactured the brutality complaint to maliciously deflate an adverse performance evaluation he suspected he would receive from his training officer.

LAPD officials have initiated a reexamination of Dorner’s firing since the rampage began.

Dorner, in an online manifesto posted before his rampage, criticized the fact that officers involved in both the Rodney King and other brutality scandals were promoted, not penalized.

An analysis of the Dorner incident for CounterPunch prepared by Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher and Mike King, a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz, concludes that brutality against non-whites remains a “structural function” of the LAPD.

“It is the commonness of excuses for police abuse/murder, the erasure of the victims as collateral damage that should be highlighted when trying to make sense of this broken, rogue, former Los Angeles cop,” Ciccariello-Maher and King wrote.

LINN WASHINGTON, JR. is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper. His work, and that of colleagues JOHN GRANT, DAVE LINDORFF, LORI SPENCER and CHARLES M. YOUNG, can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net