Photo: POLICE file
The sad, sordid chapter that is the Christopher Dorner murder spree is over.
The clean-ups, the debriefings, the critiques, the shoulda-woulda-coulda's continue to be works in progress, and I do not envy those so obligated.
But as one of the millions who followed the saga, it is difficult for me not to reflect on it in hopes of finding something of profit—some silver lining to the deaths of Monica Quan, Keith Lawrence, Officer Michael Crain of the Riverside (Calif.) Police Department, and Det. Jeremiah MacKay of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
And so I will lead off with one of the more recent revelations: That Dorner's possible culpability for the shootings was first brought to the LAPD's attention by a former mentor of the man. This speculation led to some online backtracking…backtracking that found Dorner's infamous manifesto…backtracking that allowed LAPD not only to get Dorner fixed on their radar but to warn prospective targets of the madman's agenda. I am of the mindset that these actions saved lives.
And so it was that I found myself shaking my head at the contemporaneous revelation that my former agency, which is not the LAPD, had adopted some draconian policy as it related to its employees' use of Facebook and other social networks: Nothing is to be included in such sites that establishes their nexus to the department. Amazing. A law enforcement agency will entrust an individual with a firearm and all manner of latitude as it relates to his welfare and that of others and yet be scared shitless as to what thoughts they might articulate on a Website and thereby vicariously stigmatize them.
The anal-retentive posture of such administrative mindsets astounds me. For one, I would think that they would recognize that such media affords their men and women an outlet with which to vent their frustrations and celebrate their victories. It also gives them a place to bond with their peers and the public they serve. For another, it can serve as a red flag, allowing others insight as to an employee's mindset and agendas. At its most extreme, it endows forensic psychologists invaluable information as to what to expect from that person. In Dorner's case, his online rants gave investigators a damn game plan template. That's the kind of thing Bill Belichick would cheat for.
Of course, such wingnuts as Dorner shouldn't be hired in the first place. And if what has been communicated to me via more than one source is true, there were various fail-safes along the way at which he could have been terminated long before his identity became so entwined with the department that he was determined to see as much of it and himself go out in some götterdämmerung finale. Stories of his non-conformity and racial sensitivity predate his hitting the street. Of course, the hiring of less desirable candidates always becomes problematic when it comes to firing them, both procedurally and emotionally.
And let's touch on that big bugaboo that everyone is so damn scared to address: Hypersensitivity on race. We all know people who have a huge chip on their shoulder and will find racism in every little comment or nuance with Rorschach-like ease. To some degree it's expected. A Yale study determined that we come into this world as baby bigots and have the ability to choose our morality as we evolve into adulthood. But the fact remains from an early age we tend to gravitate to our own.
These natural sympathies account for Jamie Foxx postulating that blacks are more talented than whites and John Rocker's xenophobic rants against everyone and everything. Now, harkening back to the whole social network thing, wouldn't it be nice if such perhaps faculty-impaired folks within our profession were identified early on and their fears diagnosed as founded or BS and in any case addressed? Remember, LE agencies, just because you've silenced a man doesn't mean that you've converted him…and perceived justice denied becomes justice subverted.
Of course, this is all down the road stuff. Things that, while on the radar, will doubtlessly require a battery of sociologists, psychologists, and psychic mediums to rectify. I long for the day when the Asian Peace Officers Association, the Black Peace Officers Association, the Hispanic Police Officers Association, all die non-violent deaths and race is no longer at the forefront of our consciousness. In the meantime, I fear for the day when the next dude who sees himself as the spiritual amalgam of Tom Joad and Nat Turner decides to arm up and go on the road.
Speaking of down the road, is there any position more thankless than that of an incident commander? All the responsibility and none of the glory. And one can only imagine how many different agendas and egos the I.C. on this caper was dealing with. So I am hardly jumping on his or her case when I say that I hope that in the future command posts are not established within eyeline of locations whose floor plans have not been walked and their every knock and cranny checked, which was the case for the Big Bear hideout of Christopher Dorner.
Oh, and one other thing: Do we have to tell the news media when we are scaling back operations? And when? And to what degree?
Yeah, I know that they are practically embedded with us these days and can obviously make their own conclusions on things. But I, for one, would feel better knowing that I was not the one possibly responsible for availing the subject of my search information that he might successfully exploit in developing his own tactical plans.
There are so many other facets to this affair that are deserving of commentary, none more so than the heroism of those deputies that descended upon the cabin having found his footprints in the snow. And if I could somehow shoehorn Jeremiah MacKay's name a million times over his shooter's, I would.
Alas, I am not the guy who looks at the glass and wonders if it's half full or half empty: I want to know who's been screwing with it. And so I find myself fixated more on MacKay's shooter and recalling what the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said of another, "I should very much like to give you a lesson in practical morality with the help of a few bullets." And Dorner's self-aggrandizing manifesto with its litany of transgressions allegedly perpetrated against its author recalls Emerson's "the louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."
More than anything else, it was William Hazlitt who noted that "violent antipathies are always suspicious, and betray a secret affinity," and Dorner behaved as a spurned lover, exacting revenge in the only way that he knew how, in the manner that he knew would be most impactful. We would do well to learn from this tragic example.