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Dorner manhunt: In defense of the LAPD

February 12, 2013|By Paul Thornton
  • LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, flanked by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, discusses the $1 million reward for information leading to ex-cop Christopher Dorner's arrest at a news conference on Sunday.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, flanked by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

For an organization traumatized by the shootings of a few of their own and officers in other jurisdictions, the Los Angeles Police Department isn't getting much sympathy from Times letter writers in response to the search for ex-cop Christopher Jordan Dorner. On Tuesday's letters page, four readers aim their criticism at the LAPD for the shooting in Torrance last week of two women delivering copies of The Times, whose truck police believed to have been Dorner's, and for the department's seeming double-standard for mobilizing so heavily when its own officers are under threat but not to combat the regular gun violence in many L.A. neighborhoods.

That wasn't the only such commentary we received -- not by a long shot. More than 130 readers so far have weighed in on the Dorner search, and most of them are harshly critical of the LAPD, not only for the botched Torrance operation but also in response to the initial LAPD investigation that got Dorner fired five years ago.

This commentary hasn't gone unnoticed by some former and current law enforcement professionals who happen to be Times readers. Stanford Nelson, who spent a few decades in the LAPD and now lives in Flagstaff, Ariz., sent us a defense of the process that resulted in Dorner's termination, a case that the LAPD has announced it will reopen. He also expressed dismay at the public's reaction to the manhunt:

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"The tragic and heartbreaking events surrounding Dorner's alleged actions are earthshaking and have sparked reactions ranging from sensitive to very ill informed.

"Having spent a total of 47 years in L.A. County law enforcement (31 with the LAPD), I can report that the LAPD has evolved as society has evolved. But to determine or even suggest that the enemy is us rather than a potentially psychotic and murderous person who wants to push his 'cause' is beyond the pale. Those who have exalted Dorner as a sort of 'Dark Knight' villainous hero should be ignored. Their words are execrable.

Judging by the description of his behavior as a cop after returning from military service in Bahrain, the fact remains that Dorner may have returned to active duty with the LAPD with a case of post-traumatic stress disorder. He may have seen things quite differently than most of us in the civilian or even law enforcement world.

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"Hearings by the Board of Rights, the LAPD's internal investigation panel, are fair and impartial, even more so than a civilian court with only a judge and jury that decide someone's fate. Three command officers hear evidence. In his hearings, Dorner was represented by an attorney paid for with union dues and who had no allegiance to the Board of Rights or the LAPD chief.

"In the hearings, witnesses both with and outside the LAPD testified that the officer Dorner accused of excessive force did not commit the act in question. The Board of Rights recommended termination, and then-Chief William Bratton made the decision to let Dorner go. Dorner's counsel was outstanding; he made several appeals, including one to the Los Angeles County Superior Court. They were denied.

"Dorner wanted to be an LAPD officer; he returned from Bahrain apparently with inadequate help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and reentered a police career in Los Angeles. That failed for him. Now he is an accused murderer. The only thing the rest of us should be concentrating on is not who is at fault here, but where is Dorner and how can we prevent more carnage?"

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