Selected reading: Christopher Dorner remains on the news and opinion radar

dorner-camo.jpgSounds like it will be awhile before the Dorner story fades from the front pages. There are questions about who, if anyone, will get the $1 million reward that was posted with great urgency while the former LAPD cop was at large and threatening to kill more victims. There was a protest downtown over the weekend by people who believe Dorner's accusations about LAPD racism and favoritism should be pursued. Funeral plans were disclosed for Monica Quan, the Irvine woman murdered by Dorner who was the daughter of his onetime defender in the LAPD. Then there are the ongoing debates about what Dorner's run of terror, and the LAPD's response, mean in the bigger picture.

Three journalists posted takes you might want to check out. First Tim Rutten, the Daily News columnist who spent a lot of time around LAPD issues while he was a reporter, editor and columnist at the LA Times. Full column: Today's LAPD doesn't deserve Dorner-centered delusions. An excerpt:

Of all the tragic and malevolent emanations of that demented man's homicidal self-indulgences, none has been more troubling than his emergence as a folk hero on certain urban talk radio outlets and on the lacier fringes of social media, all embracing the delusion that Dorner was a martyr to the LAPD's alleged racism and corruption....

Let's put aside for a second the facts that Dorner murdered four innocent people and that he stalked and shot to death the child of a man against whom he'd conceived a grievance. Put aside, too, the fact that even the kind of childishly stunted moral half-wits who derive their sense of justice from the movies or video games surely ought to be able to see that the latter is beyond any conceivable pale.

The somber reality is that variants of this Dorner-the-martyr current of thought are broader and closer to the surface than most of us would imagine, particularly in the African-American and Latino communities. There's a reason for that called history: There are few black or Latino Angelenos of a certain age who did not themselves experience, or have a member of their family undergo, mistreatment of one degree or another at the hands of the old LAPD.

The reform movement that followed in the wake of the consent decree imposed 13 years ago by the U.S. Department of Justice has changed all that. LAPD, though still imperfect as are all human institutions, nonetheless has been transformed under two committed mayors - James Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa - and two chiefs - Bill Bratton and Charlie Beck - equally dedicated to constitutional policing. Nothing since the election of Tom Bradley opened the city's corridors of power to minority representation has made such a difference in the quality of civic life.

As civil rights attorney Connie Rice has put it: "This is not your grandfather's LAPD." Nor even your father's - and yet the painful echoes of history linger.

Another former Los Angeles Times staffer, David Cay Johnston, covered the LAPD in the 1980s before he left for the New York Times. He remembers the Daryl Gates years, and writes in Salon that the way the LAPD went after Dorner reminds him of the bad old days. Full piece: LAPD’s indefensible Dorner pursuit. Excerpt:

That innocent people get shot by cops who think their own safety is paramount, whose actions show they value their own lives more than those of people they are sworn to protect, is part of a major problem in America that has not abated much despite decades of efforts to make policing more professional and less brutish. It is the policy of police departments that police cannot kill innocents to save themselves, in effect, that sometimes your sworn duty is to die. But, on the streets, it is far too often another story entirely.

The victims of this Feb. 7 police violence bore no resemblance to Dorner or his vehicle. The deranged Dorner drove a gray Nissan Titan pickup, while LAPD fired a fusillade into a bright blue Toyota Tacoma pickup from behind, while minutes later Torrance, Calif., police rammed a black Honda Ridgeline pickup and then fired three shots.

Dorner was a large, even hulking, black man. In the blue truck were two Hispanic women. Torrance police shot at a surfer, a white male slight in stature.

Luckily none of these innocents died, though one of the women was shot in the back.

Both LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the Torrance police quickly issued statements excusing this murderous conduct, a rush to judgment that shows how “to protect and serve” sometimes means “to protect our own.” But valuing police lives more than those of others has a long history in policing and especially in Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. So does a long history of racism in police departments that many officers of all colors have fought with limited success.

Finally, in the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Cassie MacDuff observed that Dorner's murder of a Riverside police officer and a San Bernardino sheriff's deputy show how linked the Inland Empire is to Los Angeles' problems. From her blog:

The tragic episode of the past week makes one thing clear: LA is not separate from the Inland Empire, even if the City of Angels views the 909 and the 951 as a vast dystopia unconnected with their metropolis.

There are no borders. We are conjoined. LA’s problems are our problems. LA law officers live here. Residents of our region work in LA and Orange counties.

In recent days, two of our finest gave their lives to an out-of-control problem from LA. Two were wounded.

All of Southern California was under siege during the reign of terror. No police officer — and no officer’s family — could feel safe while the suspect was at large.

More to come,. I'm sure.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Standing up to Harvey Weinstein
The Media
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
LA Observed Notes: Photos of the homeless, photos that found homes
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