The Attentat of Christopher Dorner

For anyone who's been in a coma this past week:  Ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner went on a killing spree in California, targeting other police officers and the daughter and daughter's fiance of the police captain who was appointed as Dorner's defense counsel against charges of making false claims against another officer, charges which resulted in Dorner's firing from the LAPD in 2008.  Dorner recently lost a final appeal of those charges.

Dorner, before starting his spree, posted a "manifesto" online.  The overall intent of the document seems to be a suicide note, in view of Dorner's expectation that he will be killed rather than taken alive.  Latter portions of the manifesto are a rambling series of shout-outs to and comments on celebrities and politicians he admired or despised, a last chance to say things he wants to say.

The earlier portions of the manifesto lay out Dorner's grievances against the LAPD.  Dorner had accused another LAPD officer of kicking a mentally ill person, who was already on the ground, in the chest and face.  The eventual result was that Dorner was charged with making false claims against that other officer, and lost his job over it.

Dorner's claim is that his accusations were truthful, that the police code-of-silence resulted in multiple perjuries by other officers, the counter-charges placed against him were false, and that his defense counsel's true priority was protecting the reputation of the LAPD rather than defending Dorner.

Dorner's justification for his killing spree, and promises of more to come, is that all legal pathways to justice had been corrupted, the LAPD was systemically corrupt, and that extra-legal techniques -- essentially "going to war" against the LAPD, particularly the officers who had been complicit in his firing -- was the only recourse left to him.

LAPD's stance on the killing spree is that it's the act of a deranged madman.


...it's difficult for a lot of people to not believe, and easy for a lot of people to believe, Dorner's claims of a coverup of the police brutality he'd reported.

In this specific incident, when the mentally ill person was released from jail, the person's father asked him what had happened to him.  What the person told his father was very close to the same events Dorner had reported, of an officer kicking him in the chest without cause.

So two different people reported, separately, the same events.

Add in the "code of silence" so common among police, where abuses and violations of policy go unreported, where beatings and shootings by police are always "justified", where protecting the jobs and reputations of police officers is always the top priority.

Add in that the Los Angeles PD in particular has a long past history of abuses and subsequent cover-ups.

It's easy to believe that Dorner was wronged.  It''s easy to believe the accusations he made against that other officer were true.  It's easy to believe that other officers closed ranks against him when he continued to press the issue.  It's easy to believe the "making false claims" charge filed against him was in itself false.  It's easy to believe he was railroaded.  It's easy to believe he was a good cop, betrayed by corrupt cops and pushed over the edge by that betrayal.

What Dorner is doing is an attentat, a "propaganda of the deed".  His particular case will end with his death, because the actions of the LAPD and other law agencies have made it clear that when they finally catch up to him, Dorner will die in a hail of bullets.  (The only question is how many innocent civilians will be shot and killed by police bullets before they do so.)

Dorner knows this.  His manifesto is, as noted above, essentially a suicide note.  But he wants the systemic corruption of the LAPD brought into public view.  And boy, has it!  The Internet is abuzz with people shocked by LAPD's shit-in-their-pants bullet-hosing of vehicles "similar" to the one Dorner was reported to be using, and expressing anywhere from sympathy for Dorner to outright approval of his actions.  The LA Times articles in particular seem to be garnering a lot of anti-police and pro-Dorner comments.

Wrong color, wrong size, wrong make, wrong model,
 occupied by two small Asian women rather than one big black guy.
"Close enough" for LAPD's finest to open fire.
In that regard, the "deed" has been successful in publicizing the "propaganda" to the public.  Does that justify Dorner's killings?  Certainly not when he targets not just the specific agents of his betrayal, but their families. 

But when is killing a cop justified?  Let's make a distinction here between "dirty cops" and "dingy cops".

When I consider the term "dirty cop", I think in terms of cops who take bribes, who steal, who get in bed with drug dealers, who do murder-for-hire on the side, cops whose actions are specifically criminal.  These are the undeniably corrupt cops.

Ideally, they'd be caught, tried, and sentenced to prison.  But if a dirty cop ends up in an alley with a bullet in his head... I'd be hard-pressed to shed a tear for him.

But what about the "dingy cops"?  These are the cops who look the other way when they see corruption and abuse by other officers, the cops who keep their mouths shut, the cops who will lie to protect fellow officers, the cops who honor the "code of silence".

That code is dysfunctional.  It enables and abets corruption and abuse.  It makes police into enemies of the public good, not its protectors.  Do "dingy cops" deserve to die?

Dorner has decided "Yes."  Dorner has broken that code, broken it with extreme prejudice and replaced it with his own code.  The message he is sending to the LAPD (and law-enforcement agencies in general) is simple: "If You Lie, You Die."

That's an extreme message.  But an attentat is always an extreme message.

That message shouldn't have to be sent.  The "code of silence" among police shouldn't exist; it's wrong, it's immoral, it's evil.  Nobody should have to die to challenge the existence of that code.

I hope there's a lot of soul-searching going on among individual officers, in the LAPD and elsewhere.  I hope they're thinking about what that code of silence has done to the institution and reputation of law-enforcement.  I hope they're thinking about how that code of silence has made so many citizens view them with suspicion, fear, and contempt.  I hope they're thinking about what following that code of silence has done to their own souls.

Because the only "good" ending to this whole affair won't be when Dorner is found and killed.  The only "good" ending will be if that code of silence becomes less endemic, less ingrained, less entrenched, and less acceptable.

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