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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

The Dorner Rampage is Over…Now Comes the Repercussions

It's now time to look into why Christopher Dorner was hired as a cop and how to handle the next officer with the same issues.

February 26, 2013  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: POLICE file
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.

Tags: Chris Dorner, LAPD, Racial Discrimination Claims, Thin Blue Line


Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Gerry Hitt @ 2/26/2013 4:47 PM

The first time in my life i have been able to interact with anybody from law enforcement has been on Facebook, even though I was the victim of a major crime at five years old. I did not trust the law enforcement available to me to handle this matter because of all the factors involved. I had also tried to get help to surface the crimes when I was going to the University of Utah and the school psychiatrist incarcerated me after about a two minute interview and I was told I would be scheduled for electric shock so to get ready for it. I had chronic fatigue and did not think I could survive electric shock, which I told them. They did not respond for five days and night and then I crashed with the worst bout of chronic fatigue in my whole life. I came near to dying of it after a 4 hour seizure. Only then did they decide I could not survive electric shock and sent me home with my health broken for life. I had good reason not to trust law enforcement or psychiatry. If I was mentally ill it was from stress from being raised in the home of an alcoholic, which was the same reason I developed CF at 12 years old, but there was a massive inability for either law enforcement or psychiatrists who treated mental illness to understand the victim. Anything that helps should not be limited to people.

Mark Tarte @ 2/26/2013 6:25 PM

Well written Dean. Was Dorner the recipient of favoritism to fill a box the city and LAPD needed to fill with a minority hire or did he just slip through the cracks in the background process? Earlier reports in the LA Times talked of a cadet who flaunted authority by wearing the wrong colored running shoes when told not to and of accidentally shooting himself in the hand during the range portion of the academy. If the Times can be trusted and the stories are true, either incident would have been grounds in mine and other academies of immediate dismissal. If true and he wasn't dismissed from the academy, then the tragedy that this coward wrought his four victims and their families must be laid at the feet of LAPD, at least indirectly.

Jim A @ 2/26/2013 7:27 PM

We hear about it all the time; a cop "goes rogue" or "goes off" - and then some know-it-all says that they should have known because he was that way the whole time and was hired anyway. The fact is that people change. Psychological exams are not an exact science. They are a "best guess" based upon a profile. The job changes us all at least a little - and some to a degree that does not allow a return to "normal". Maybe nobody could have predicted this years ago, but it is a good thing that someone was able to look at Dorner and see an issue brewing. It took a friend of Dorner's coming forward, reporting the facts, and making a scary prediction. To that mentor, we say thank you. What you did was really tough. Not everyone would do it, but many are glad that you did.

Arby @ 2/27/2013 7:40 AM

Dean, I enjoy your articles and this one is no exception. However, I personally don't believe the "anal retentive" brand, applicable as it may be in some places, should be used to broad-brush admins seeking some control over their public image and our professional image as a whole. While there may be some admonitions over what to post on Facebook and other social media, I'm not aware of any outright bans on their use. Ours folks still have those outlets to "vent their frustrations and celebrate their victories." It follows then that these outlets may also still serve as potential "red flags" when read by their "friends" in time to begin some type of intervention. If an individual's goal is to "out" some perceived injustice within an agency, other outlets still exist (news media), who are only too happy to oblige. Forbidding any nexus to an agency is only an attempt to prevent unintended (and usually unnecessary), embarassment to the agency in the eyes of the public. Every officer who, on social media or otherwise, did some outrageously stupid thing and got themselves fired or arrested was trusted with a gun, so that argument doesn't hold water. Any self-identification as an officer can be dangerous to the officer or the officer's family when some "friend" or relative down the line turns out to be a wingnut who's peeved because their buddy was arrested and sent to prison. Once you put it out there, you can't determine where it will end up - and in this age, that is a safety issue. In social media, agencies are limited in their ability to protect an individual to safety warnings or suggestions. Specified prohibitions in SOPs are attempts to protect the agency image. Think of the image of the police in Mexico. Does that hamper the crime-fighting efforts of honest officers, even in wholly honest agencies? CALEA, internal affairs, SOPs are all tools meant to provide safe, effective and efficient service. "Nexus" prohibitions are just another such tool.

Federali @ 2/27/2013 10:52 AM

Great article Dean. Like you, I too " 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", unless we also allow a Caucasian Association, a Light Brown Association, an Albino Association, a Hepatitis Yellow Association, etc.... Otherwise my question to those associations that are out there segregating themselves from the rest of us is, "Who are the racists here?" My answer includes "Not me!"

kkstone @ 3/3/2013 9:17 PM

Good article. Sure it must have been difficult to write. From what I have heard, LAPD background investigations are not as stringent as SD, but I wonder what info the Navy didn't disclose? For sure , the psych screen was useless. And not just in this case, either. Thank you for naming the victims.

robart _jackson @ 5/27/2014 10:46 PM

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<a href="http://insightchoices.com"> Los Angeles </a>.

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