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Not a License to Lawlessness

February 11, 2013

Though sprawling and contradictory, the 15-page, single-spaced letter from fugitive and former police officer Christopher Dorner returns repeatedly to a culture of cover-up, abuse of authority, and sadism within the LAPD.

It should be easy to dismiss the document as a lunatic’s last ramblings. The desperate vestiges of sanity sputtered out before a psychopath’s civilian and cop-killing rampage.

But the early morning hail of bullets by LAPD officers on two women delivering newspapers in an otherwise, understandably peaceful neighborhood should cast some doubt on the seemingly extreme elements in Dorner’s message, though not excuse his alleged actions.

While mainstream news media outlets feed a morbid fascination with the vigilante-type figure, shouldn’t we also focus with as much intensity on the inexcusable “accident” that saw scores of bullets shot at the two women trapped in the truck?

In the picture for the Los Angeles Times, there are 46 visible bullet holes and casings. Five more were lodged in the entryway of a resident. Blessedly, the women survived—Carranza with mere scratches from the blasted glass, but her mother with two bullets in her back.

There was no warning. No signal to stop and disarm, according to a statement for Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71. Just the sudden wall of bullets delivered by at least seven officers.

You can read it as comic embarrassment or divine intervention that the two women survived, but the entire scenario must give rise to at least one among a set of questions: What could have been the intention of the officers?

A few streets and moments away, different officers rammed into a truck driven by surfer David Purdue and again shot up the vehicle. Again, luckily, the innocent driver was not fatally wounded.

Both parties were driving trucks of a different model and color than the suspected Dorner’s. Neither received instructions to stop or alter course.

One defense brought forward for police officers right now is that, as a specified target of Dorner, they feel heightened tension. It’s difficult to imagine a more stressful occupation than police officer where you daily lay your life on the line. But isn’t that specific to the job description? In the end, what makes Dorner so much more dangerous than any armed assailant escaping down an alleyway that officers feel justified in trying to kill him by surprise?

The deaths attributed to Dorner—of Monica Quan, 28,Monica Quan memorial the daughter of the officer appointed at his dismissal hearing, and Keith Lawrence, 27, her fiance, and an officer, 34, in Riverside – are tragic and indefensible. But also tragic and indefensible is that so many of Dorner’s allegations echo with familiarity.

He laments that the days of Rodney King and Rampart never went away, depicts ugly, rampant racism—conventional, intra-ethic, and “reverse” racism—against civilians and fellow officers alike, and writes of officers whose abiding pride is violence.

Without corroborating action like that taken by LAPD officers February 9, the diatribe by Dorner might come off as quickly dismissible.

Police officers, supposedly leaders and protectors of the community, who abide by a bankrupt, bullying set of standards are not leaders nor protectors of anyone, but dangers to the community. Their chosen professions are not simple, enviable, or often appreciated, but a badge ought not to be sought as a license for lawlessness.

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