My first experience of the LAPD was as a child back in Wales, staring at the TV screen in horror and fascination, watching a grainy image of police officers beat a black man to a pulp. I’d never seen anything like it. None of us had. Six thousand miles away, in a tiny village in Wales with only five hundred inhabitants, we talked about Rodney King and racism in Los Angeles . T-shirts sprang up on local market stalls bearing the slogan LAPD – treat you like a King! Los Angeles seemed like a place of horrors, a place so utterly backward and corrupt that none of us would ever want to even visit, let alone live there. I never thought of Los Angeles as the home of the movie industry. I thought of Los Angeles as the home of racism, police brutality, and Skid Row.
And then I moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, and I became exposed to a different kind of policing. I became exposed to the LAPD. While reporting on Occupy LA‘s raid night, I watched cops beat peaceful activists with batons in a quiet side street. I wrote about it, and Mayor Villaraigosa called me a liar on CNN. While protesting outside a downtown jail, a friend of mine was physically assaulted by a Police Officer. Despite video evidence to the contrary, he was accused of felony resisting and encouraged to take a plea deal. He is now on probation for being assaulted by a Police Officer. I regularly saw homeless people on Skid Row harassed by police, arrested for sitting on the sidewalk, their belongings confiscated and never returned. As a white, British woman, I did not ever experience the same levels of abuse, oppression and harassment that I saw exacted upon people of color, the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable, marginalized groups. But working as a community organizer and activist in Downtown LA and Skid Row made me realize that the Rodney King incident and the days of Rampart weren’t a part of history. They were part of the present. It is how the Los Angeles Police Department still operates today.
The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions…
– Christopher Dorner
The problem is that most of the people who LAPD target aren’t, like me or you, white, privileged and well educated. They aren’t, like me or you, able to articulate their outrage and speak out against violations of their civil rights. They maybe can’t afford good lawyers and no one cares if they are beaten or shot. I’m talking about Steven Eugene Washington, an unarmed black, autistic 27-year-old shot in drive-by fashion by the LAPD [Chief Charlie Beck decided they were justified in their shooting, the civilian commission overruled him unanimously] . I’m talking about Kennedy Garcia, critically wounded by the LAPD while handcuffed — lying on his stomach. No one has any idea why the fact that he was cuffed and on his stomach wasn’t included in the press release on the incident. I’m talking about Alesia Thomas, a drug addicted young mother who tried to abandon her children at a police station, knowing she couldn’t care for them – and was taken into custody for doing so, repeatedly assaulted by Police Officers during her arrest, and then died from the injuries she sustained. The video evidence has yet to be released by LAPD despite repeated requests. Nor have the names of the officers responsible for her murder been made known to the public. Abdul Arian ran from the LAPD. Somehow, in the double-speak for the department, running away is aggression, contrary to what every normal person knows to be true — that running away is almost the least aggressive thing one can do. Abdul was 19, the LAPD emptied out 90 shots to bring down an unarmed teenager on foot who was running for his life.
These are not isolated incidents. Every 36 hours a black person is killed by the police, security guards or white vigilantes (but mostly by the police). They also say that the largest killer of cops is a self-inflicted gunshot wound, presumably from those unable to handle the knowledge that ‘protecting’ and ‘serving’ has a different definition within the PD.
None of the police officers involved in the abuses above have lost their jobs. Only last week it emerged that a Police Officer – James Nichols – being investigated for rape charges, faces a separate lawsuit for nearly beating a man to death. Nichols has not lost his job.
All this and more is why Christopher Jordan Dorner, the cop who published a thorough manifesto of his own experiences of racism, corruption and abuse within LAPD, and then appears to have gone on a killing spree specifically targeting cops and their families, has garnered support from a large amount of people. I doubt that any of Christopher Dorner’s supporters rejoice in his alleged murder of Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence.
Personally, I find their deaths absolutely abhorrent, sad and disgusting. I’m not a violent person, and I do not support gratuitous violence in any form. This includes, but is not limited to, state-sanctioned violence. I do, however, support the idea of justice and of self defense, particularly given the lack of both of these rights under the current system. It’s not hard to see that when a group of oppressors suddenly become the prey in much the same way as they have preyed upon the most vulnerable and under-privileged members of society, that the oppressed feel vindicated. The oppressed feel that justice is finally being dealt. The oppressed feel that there is some form of defense happening. The irony is, of course, that it had to happen from within, by an exceptional cop gone rogue, by a brilliant and deadly human being trained by the oppressors of whom he was part – until he was punished for being a whistleblower, and cast out from the elite. The LAPD created Dorner in their mould – as LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says, “[Dorner] knows what he’s doing; we trained him” – and now they are reaping the consequences of his revenge. Christopher Jordan Dorner is the LAPD’s karma.
There will, of course, be innocent victims in the fall out, “collateral damage”, as there always is with all American “justice”, be that children killed by drone attacks in Pakistan, or passersby shot dead by violent domestic policing. This is how America works, after all. Shoot first, ask questions later. Drop a bomb on a school because Al Qaeda might be in there. Casualties are necessary in this endless war, we are told by the government. As someone trained by an Imperialist military, Dorner understands all too well the concept of collateral damage. Sometimes we need innocent people to die so that other innocent people can stay safe – or so we are told by our Commander in Chief. Casualties such as Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence, and victims like the two Hispanic women shot by the LAPD yesterday as they delivered newspapers merely because their royal blue Toyota Tacomoa was allegedly similar to Dorner’s dark-colored Nissan, the other three people who have been shot at in the manhunt for Dorner – these are all part of LAPD’s narrative. People have to die so that we can all stay safe and protected by the LAPD. Except when you become the LAPD’s sacrifical lamb, one gains a different perspective. Luckily, as a white, educated person of a certain economic class, the chances of you being chosen as a sacrifical lamb is remote. The LAPD prefer to target black and brown working class males. Which is why Dorner targeted Monica Quan, the daughter of his defending Officer, and her boyfriend, Keith Lawrence. The type of people practically guaranteed immunity in a society where no one is safe, not even the young, the innocent and the law abiding. In a horrifically postmodern vendetta which belongs more in a movie than real life, Dorner is attacking the system that created him, proving its senseless violence by embodying that senseless violence and turning it back upon its creators:
The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale compasses to true north.
Dorner’s manifesto has been dismissed as “rambling” and “incoherent” by most major news outlets, who ignore the fact that it’s actually an articulate and thorough denunciation of police brutality, written by a whistle blower with a demand for stricter gun laws. As Rania Khalek observes, “He points out that his rampage wouldn’t have been possible had there been a “well regulated AWB [assault weapons ban]”. He asks why anyone would need a “30 round magazine for hunting” or an AR15 rifle, which he compares to the M-4 and M-16 military rifles used against ‘Al-Qaeda, Taliban and every combatant since the Vietnam war.”
“I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered and libeled me,” Dorner writes, who identifies throughout his manifesto as a patriot whose core beliefs have been shattered. He realizes that he has, as we might say, ‘lost the plot’. He’s happy to tell you why that is, and why he believes he has to divert his killing skills away from the people they were intended for, and against those who trained him. His manifesto or letter, titled simply, ‘Last Resort’. is addressed to America, in a final plea, perhaps, that they address the heart of darkness that lies at its core. The heart of darkness which turned Christopher Dorner from a man who believed that he could best serve his country by working as a navy reservist and LAPD officer, to a man who believed he could best serve his country by destroying the LAPD entirely using the skills he learned in the navy.
I have always been the top shot, highest score, an expert in rifle qualifications in every unit I’ve been in. I will utilize every bit of small arms training, demolition, ordnance, and survival training I’ve been given.
Do you know why we are unsuccessful in asymmetrical and guerrilla warfare in CENTCOM theatre of operations? I’ll tell you. It’s not the inefficiency of our combatant commanders, planning, readiness or training of troops. Much like the Vietnam war, ACM, AAF, foreign fighters, Jihadist, and JAM have nothing to lose. They embrace death as it is a way of life. I simply don’t fear it. I am the walking exigent circumstance you created.
Leaked documents and newspaper articles detailing Dorner’s obvious intelligence, hard work and humanity paint an intriguing picture of the man. Dorner was known as a man who could and would report bad behavior within the department, and made several complaints to the department alleging violent or unprofessional conduct of his colleagues. An apparent article from 2002 relates a younger Dorner finding eight thousand dollars in a bag on the street, and returning it to the owner, an elderly woman. A picture shows him huge, muscular and smiling as he shakes Former Chief Bratton’s hand. He comes across as an intelligent, moralistic, patriot:
I am an American by choice, I am a son, I am a brother, I am a military service member, I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me. I lived a good life and though not a religious man I always stuck to my own personal code of ethics, ethos and always stuck to my shoreline and true North. I didn’t need the US Navy to instill Honor, Courage, and Commitment in me but I thank them for re-enforcing it. It’s in my DNA…
He is a man who has stared into the dark heart of corruption, and is now taking vengeance upon it, trying to turn the LAPD into the victims they have persecuted: people like Kendrec McDade, Alisia Thomas and Kelly Thomas.
It’s interesting that America does not want to understand why our serial killers and our gunmen do what they do. After every tragedy, newspaper articles ask “Why”, and yet now, when we have an alleged killer who has answered the “Why” for us, we dismiss his explanation, replacing it with our own: He is simply crazy. We want to believe killers are ‘crazy’, a catch all word where we consign everyone who enacts violence which has not been sanctioned by the government to the realm of the mentally ill, and revere those who enact violence in the name of the state as good, law abiding citizens who deserve the power to decide who lives and who dies.
Dorner, as far as we can tell, never injured a defenseless citizen as an LAPD officer, when he had the state sanctioned power to do so, and knew that if anyone complained, he would likely never face any serious repercussions. In fact, he reported a fellow officer, Teresa Evans, for her violent acts against a mentally ill man, and by doing so, he lost his job, his reputation and his career. Had Dorner beaten Rodney King instead of reporting a fellow officer for violence, he might well be a Captain in the force – like Rolando Solano, who was present at King’s beating, gazing on as his superiors beat a black man to a pulp, yet is now a Commanding Officer.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is no doubt that Christopher Dorner is not a sane man, but it’s absolutely obvious why he has had a breakdown with deadly consequences, and why he feels a moral compulsion to correct and eliminate the corruption he has been trained to correct and eliminate. I see people expressing hurt, shock, anger, fear all over the place – ‘Deadly cop killer’ ‘crazy cop’ a ‘cop’s worst nightmare’ – and yet the mainstream media seem unwilling to confront the very obvious fact that something monumental and huge happened to change this man. That this man is on a killing spree not because he enjoys senseless violence, but because he sees corruption so rampant that nothing will stop it, except perhaps him.
The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.
If people have to die so that corruption is eliminated, he accepts this. Just like LAPD accepts this. Just like your government does.
I’m no more scared of Dorner than I am of every cop with a gun in the United States of America. As Malcolm X said, it’s a case of the chickens coming home to roost.
Ruth Fowler is a journalist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She’s the author of Girl Undressed. She can be followed on Twitter at @fowlerruth.