In the movie “Django Unchained,” a slave gets his revenge on White slave owners by killing them. Many believe this modern-day “Spaghetti Western” created the label of the “bad Black man” (Django) that has been given to accused murderer and ex-Los Angeles Police Officer Christopher Dorner.
Looking at the social dynamics of the past two weeks–during which Dorner was the subject of a statewide manhunt–the accusation was made by at least two talking heads on news shows that he was acting out the plot of Django, attempting to exact revenge on those that wronged him.
By now many individuals are familiar with the name Christopher Jordon Dorner. He was named a suspect in a number of Southern California attacks on civilians and police officers, that resulted in the deaths of four individuals.
There is evidence of racial polarization on the issue on blogs, in barbershops, coffee shops and watering holes and the feelings may be a reflection of your socio-economic status or the part of town you were raised in.
Since the online re-posting of Dorner’s 11,000 word manifesto, a group of individuals silently held their thoughts and watched as this situation unfolded.
These individuals are African American police officers who were interviewed about the working environment of the Los Angeles Police Department prior to Dorner’s death.
The names of the officers in this article (22 in total were interviewed) have been changed to protect their identity. Many of them have ongoing unresolved conflicts with the department.
Officer D.A.: “They have created a Monster. He is mad. He is a government-trained killer, and he is an atheist. If you could have a conversation with him it would be a first because you would be talking to a police officer who is already dead.” That is how this former police officer described Dorner. “This is a guy that believes he was done wrong by his employer, the LAPD, and he is upset. I am not surprised. Do you think the Los Angeles Fire Department has exclusivity to racism? He is using military escape and evade tactics, and the LAPD realize they are dealing with a time bomb. I wonder if the people in charge realize they pushed him to the edge, or (do they) still remain in denial. This will end as a military action because most of the guys hunting him have military experience.”
More than a dozen African American LAPD officers, with no less than 10 years of experience, had nothing good to say about their agency in regards to its treatment of Black officers. Some complained of not being able to sleep thinking about the dilemma that Dorner faced. One officer described it as a scream using every part of your body to generate a cry for help, but you are incapable of making a sound.
Another officer believes if racist actions would move beyond conversations with a spouse, a significant other, or a fellow African American officer; if they could openly share their problem in a group-like setting then Black LAPD officers like Dorner would realize they are not the only one.
Other African American officers have been in their shoes and have survived without killing innocent people. The issue is management finding out that you are not happy with your job.
All the officers agreed to the interviews under the condition they remain anonymous for fear of being terminated. All were passionate and emotional about their statements and descriptions of racial prejudice. The picture they painted was one of unfairness they felt was a result of being Black and working within the ranks of the LAPD. Many described their dissatisfaction with the department’s mistreatment. During the interviews some officers became so emotional that you could hear their pensive, irregular breathing over the phone.
The complaints came from different departments and ranks. Many would only state they were unhappy with the treatment of African Americans in the community and on the force. They were apprehensive about describing specific incidents that had taken place for fear that they could easily be traced to them.
One officer responded with anger after reading an interview in the Los Angeles Times by civil rights activist and lawyer Constance “Connie” Rice. She is also the co-founder and co-director of the Advancement Project.
Rice said: There won’t be a happy ending to Christopher Dorner’s quest for vengeance against the Los Angeles Police Department. Nothing justifies his murder of innocents or his threats against LAPD personnel and their families. The only positive thing that can possibly be said, at the moment, is that today’s LAPD is in the hands of new leaders who are slowly but surely ending the old subculture that Dorner describes in his online manifesto.
Officer XY:”That’s amazing she would say something like that about the new leaders and the slow ending of the old subculture. I had a lot of respect for her at one time. It is my belief that she is out of touch and I need to tell you Connie Rice, the racist culture is strong and vibrant and has increased with Charles Beck. I suggest she call Attorney Carl Douglas or City Attorney candidate Greg Smith and allow them to give a brief description of the two Americas that exist in the eyes of the LAPD; the good-old-boys culture still exists within the LAPD and will probably thrive forever. I believe Dorner felt this was the only way he could bring national attention to the problem of the agency. I feel the taking of innocent lives is awful, but I know firsthand how he felt he had run out of options.
“In regards to Dorner’s meltdown and violence, you have to realize after you complete the academy, you are brainwashed and you are introduced into a culture where your fellow officers are your family and you will do whatever to protect them. I believe Dorner may be one of those brainwashed officers that believe he was mistreated by his family, and that his family was taken away when they fired him. As a result of this, he felt the only alternative was revenge.
Officer ML: “I know for a fact that African American officers in the Los Angeles Police Department have been suffering and without a voice since the death of Deputy Chief Kenneth Gardner around 2009. He was always available and would follow up on any complaints you had as an African American police officer. You knew you had an ear, now we don’t have anyone. I had the privilege of serving under Kenny Gardner when he was deputy chief and Bernard Parks when he was chief; back then we had two individuals who had zero tolerance against abusing African American officers or citizens of South Los Angeles.
“Officers knew if they were treating Black officers unfairly there would be a very thorough and fair investigation with full transparency.
“Bernard Parks had a reputation of having an incident investigated again, if he was not satisfied with the first outcome. I believe his refusal to answer questions about the Rampart investigation was because he had a gut feeling it was a witch hunt, and he was the witch.”
Officer PR: “The LAPD needs to investigate Dorner’s complaint because it is probably true. I know the stress he was feeling, because I have felt it. But, that was not the way to deal with this type of situation. I believe he would not let go of his feeling of being lied on, and over a period of time it may have become a mental illness. I am basing this on his apparent anger with retired Captain Randy Quan.
“At one time Quan was my supervisor at the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center and he was a fair guy. Why would he represent (Dorner) half-heartedly; that was not who he is.
“Last week, I was talking with a very close friend of mine, an African American who worked for the Monterey Park Police Department. He personally knew Capt. Randy Quan and worked with Quan when he was assigned to the LAPD Asian Gang Task Force. He described him as a great guy who would have represented Dorner to his fullest ability.
Officer OP: In interviewing this officer, I asked why younger African American officers are not as passionate about racism in the department.
“The younger African American officers who had (no more than) three years of service had not
yet been tainted by the department. A lot of younger African American recruits did not grow up in South Los Angeles and are unaware of the history of the LAPD. Now the department openly recruits African Americans who did not grow up in South Los Angeles.
“Many younger guys want to get on the fast track and go to divisions where the action is, like Southwest, Southeast, 77th and Newton. Not coming from South Los Angeles, they have no vested interest in the neighborhoods or people of the community, unlike older Black officers who grew up in the area.
“Not having a vested interest in the community allows a Black officer to get off track. When you get off track you have no subconscious connection to get you back on track. It makes seeing, hearing or participating in offensive actions OK.
I just want to add that the van incident mentioned in Dorner’s manifesto is true. We now have a program called the walk-about where prior to their graduation, cadets are driven by senior officers to an area to interact with the community.
“Dorner was in a van returning to the academy with cadets when he overheard a few engaged in a conversation using the N-word. This was reported and nothing happened to the cadets. They should have been kicked out of the academy, but they graduated the next day.
“I have forced White officers not to throw a homeless individuals property away prior to arresting him for a warrant; those items were not bottles or cans they were his clothing, his blankets, his property. I have forced them to take inventory and store these items, because that’s what they would do in Westwood.”
Officer LA: “I do believe that there is a possibility he could have been railroaded by the department, and I believe that if it is true it may not come out. The LAPD is excellent at covering up incidents and pros at masking it as transparency. When a report is typed or written to conceal an action or cover up an incident, report writing becomes a coordinated effort of experts in the art of concealment.
“I believe the issue is Charlie Beck. African American officers have suffered under him. The issue is those who work for them and where their hearts are.
“Dorner is wrong for taking lives. He had a chance to walk away and start over. If Chief Charles Beck was replaced by Jesus Christ today, the culture would still remain the same.
Another senior African American detective believes that nothing will change. “Individuals known as activists will jockey for camera time and stand stoically in front of podiums and complain,” he said. “After they feel they have maximized their camera time they will return to where they came from accomplishing nothing, and we will return to our jobs as African American police officers unable to voice our opinions, because we are being watched. We will remember the days of Kenny and Bernard and the tragedy and carnage of Dorner.”
Correction: In last week’s cover story, “What Drove Dorner’s Rage,” it was mistakenly reported that many of the LAPD officers interviewed for the article were involved in pending legal action against the department. That is not true. None of the officers were involved in legal action against the force.