LAPD Chief Beck’s Plans To Reopen the Dorner Dismissal Case Should Be the 1st Step. More Concrete Steps Must FollowFebruary 10th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
As most of you have doubtless heard by now, in an interview with CBS’s Pat Harvey on Saturday, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said that he would reopen the case that led to Dormer’s termination.
(You also I’m sure know that a $1 million reward is being offered for information leading the capture and conviction of Dorner.)
Reopening Dorner’s case is an important move. Despite vast improvement, the toxic elements of the bad old days of the LAPD still linger in cracks and corners of the department, and sometimes that toxicity leaks outside those cracks and corners. Once upon a time in the Los Angeles Police Department, those who reported other officers for wrongdoing were quickly marginalized, racism ran deep in too many quarters–both the overt and the simply careless variety—and an us versus them, siege mentality that lent itself to brutality, evidence planting, and the criminalization of whole communities, ruled too much of the day.
Through the imposition of a federal consent decree, and the work of two chiefs determined to transform the malignant sides of the department culture, along with the less recognized efforts of the city’s many good and decent cops—both supervisors and rank and file—the LAPD began the slow process of change.
As of now, the Los Angeles Police Department has come a very long way, both in terms of its own reform, and in the way it is viewed by the communities it serves, in particular the minority communities who were most on the receiving end of the brutality and racism that ran deep and wide through the department during its worst years.
But to think the job is over, is to be dreaming. For all Dorner’s monstrous (alleged) actions and his unimaginably ghastly threats, amid his vengeful ragings there are many statements that ring grimly and dishearteningly true.
Therefore it is good to hear Chief Beck make it clear that, amid the nightmarish threat that officers and their families are facing, he doesn’t want to lose the gains in community relationships that the strides that the last decade have brought—while not for a moment insisting that everything has been fixed in the Los Angeles Police Department. The department is “better but not perfect,” he said. And, so, he’s reopening the Dorner case.
“I am aware of the ghosts of the LAPD’s past, and one of my biggest concerns is that they will be resurrected by Dorner’s allegations of racism,” Beck said in a statement.
Beck’s concern is appropriate. Yet the concern needs to be broadened to include the present, not just the past. The destructive spirits of the LAPD’s bad old days, while their power is greatly lessened, are not gone. Let us all be honest about that fact.
With this in mind, reopening the Dorner case should be the first step of many for the department, not the sole step.
I think Chief Beck is leaning that direction. “We will also investigate any allegations made in his manifesto which were not included in his original complaint,” the chief wrote in his statement. But he must be backed in this endeavor by the union, by the political forces in the city, and by the men and woman of the force itself.
It should, for example, sober everyone that some LAPD officers, because of their fear that Dorner was in the area and might threaten the officer they were guarding, appeared to give themselves permission, without a scintilla of actual provocation, to light up a suspicious-seeming truck containing two newspaper delivery women—nevermind that the women’s truck did not match the make or color or the plate number of Dorner’s vehicle. We desperately want our officers to be safe from the man who is stalking them. But, their safety cannot ever be bought at the cost of the safety of the residents of the communities they have taken an oath to protect and serve.
The details of the second appellate ruling against Dorner tend, on first bounce, to suggest that he was wrong in accusing his training officer of kicking a homeless man that Dorner and his boss were apprehending, but as a law enforcement friend pointed out in a conversation about the matter Saturday night, “You know how that goes. Those outcomes can be cooked. We’ve all see it happen.” Yep, we have. And courts are notoriously reluctant to decide against police officers.
So, a thank you to Chief Charlie Beck for opening the investigation. And please, LAPD, make very, very sure that the reexamination is right and good and true. As your chief said, you are not reopening the issue to appease an alleged multiple murderer; you’re reopening it to reassure Los Angeles residents that you no longer punish whistleblowers, and that racism no longer calls the shots—either overtly or subtly—in the LAPD. And that you will not put up with officers who believe they have the right to abuse and dehumanize anyone they designate as “the bad guys.”
And, if by chance, Dorner happened to be right in the accusation that, in part, led to his termination, please have the courage to say so.
It is very painful to admit that a man who is suspected of creating so much grief and havoc— a man who wishes to create far more grief and havoc—has made some righteous points that demand our attention. But that happens to be the case.
MORE THAN 50 OFFICERS AND FAMILIES UNDER PROTECTION
The full Beck interview is above, and it’s interesting to watch. Chief Beck looks more strained than I’ve ever seen him, understandably so.
The part of his interview below gives an idea why (if we didn’t know already):
Beck: Look I have over 50 families—-50 families—of Los Angeles police officers that have protective details living with them right now, because we’re so concerned about their safety because they are specific targets of Dorner, because he’s stated that in his manifesto. And he has demonstrated through the murders of Monica and her fiance that he is serious about what he’s said in that manifesto. Now imagine having to go through you daily existence like that knowing that your family is the target of a trained assassin like Dorner. Now, imagine the way that would affect you and way you go about your day to da You know, all of us, including me, when we become police officers, we know there’s risk. And we’re willing to accept those risks. But we’re not willing to accept those risks for our kids. And our wives. and our husbands. We don’t expect them to shoulder the burdon of our profession.
Beck’s official statement can be accessed here.
The chief is a very good man in profoundly difficult situation. We are rooting for him.
NOTE: the NY Times has an interesting article on Beck’s decision to open Dorner’s case.
AND THE LA TIMES’ Jack Leonard, Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein have a must read story on Dorner’s case and how Dorner’s perceived credibility, more than the facts, may have decided it.