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Blog: An Open Letter to the Los Angeles Police Department and the People They Police

Christopher Dorner was a game changer and now is not the time for business as usual.

*Christopher Dorner is dead.

Whether you agree or disagree with Dorner’s actions preceding his death or even how he died, one fact can’t be changed—he brought forth serious allegations of racism and discrimination within the Los Angeles Police Department. Dorner’s allegations have been publicly co-signed by both retired and terminated Black LAPD employees—and in private by those currently serving within the department but too afraid to cross the blue line.

Many are asking, where do we go from here, but I’m more concerned with where we don’t go from here.

To both the LAPD and the community—it can’t be business as usual.

Town hall meetings and community forums to discuss a problem that we already know exists are a waste of time and accomplish nothing.  Sure—the media will cover it and there will be no shortage of people coming forward to express outrage and mistrust towards the LAPD. The LAPD in turn will sit there and take the verbal abuse because quite frankly they’re being paid to be there and it’s what they do when there’s a surge of strong public outrage directed towards their department—and when it’s all over everyone will go home.

But if it’s really a new day in the LAPD and the organization is as transparent as it tells us it is, then it’s time for the LAPD to sit down with the LAPD.  That’s the discussion that needs to take place.

Dorner’s manifesto wasn’t written to call attention to police brutality.  He was trying to call attention to the systemic institutional racism and discrimination that he experienced as a Black police officer when trying to report police brutality to his higher-ups.  He was trying to clear his name and blow the whistle on what is happening inside the department everyday, including today, to Black police officers.  Don’t get distracted.

You tell me what’s easier—investigating the firing of a dead ex-cop or addressing the issue of rampant racism in the department that was presented by the dead ex-cop.

Dorner wasn’t the first Black police officer to lose it after separating from the department and as others have said, he won’t be the last unless something changes.

Fred Nichols was a Black man who was the LAPDs chief expert on use-of-force tactics. In 1991, Nichols was suddenly reassigned in an apparent retaliatory move by the department for testifying before the County Grand Jury in the Rodney King case and for later sharply warning the Christopher Commission about the department’s routine misunderstanding of excessive force.  He was taken from a very prominent position within the department to what he considered a “less prestigious position.”

According to the L.A. Times, the department denied that the reassignment was retaliatory, describing the move as part of an overall redesign of the training program.  The incident marked the third time that the department’s high command has been accused of punishing supervisors who spoke out against the LAPD in closed sessions before the Christopher Commission.

Nichols, in an interview with the the Times, said he’d suffered severe stress-related problems, including anxiety, insomnia and vomiting, since he was advised that he was being removed.

“I can’t work. I can’t sleep,” he said. “There’s not one minute that I don’t think about it. Sixteen years of working in specialized units, doing my tasks, and now, because I’m honest and fair, they do this to me.

“What career do I have left? It’s gone. If you make waves in this department, it becomes close to impossible to ever promote again.”

Fred Nichols checked into a hotel that following May and shot himself.

Retired in-good-standing sergeant Cheryl Dorsey recently came forward and explained how when she was going through her own Board of Rights hearing that involved the same charge as Dorner—giving false and misleading statements to an Internal Affairs investigator —she seriously contemplated just jumping off the third floor of the Bradbury Building.

Married to another LAPD officer at the time, Dorsey says that she was a victim of domestic violence and after details of incidents at her home found their way into the department, she was charged with six counts of unnecessarily causing the response of an outside agency for the six calls she made to the sheriff’s department from her home in Altadena.  The charge of giving false and misleading statements was tacked on when questioned by Internal Affairs.

She believes that having come forward since Dorner and finally speaking out that she’ll face some sort of retaliation from the department.

Fired LAPD police officer Brian Bentley said that he had a manifesto too—not a list of those to kill, but those who had wronged him during his 10 years with the department.  He was fired for writing the book One Time: The Story of a South Central Los Angeles Police Officer, a book that documented his experience with racism, discrimination, and police brutality inside of the LAPD.

And there’s another Black officer who has a lot to say but tells me that he’s too worried about his family to come forward.

So you see, this time it isn’t about us per se—it’s about the Black men and women who have suffered over the years the type of racism and discrimination as described by Dorner and echoed by many of his colleagues in the days since.

The community’s job is to push forward and stand with those Black police officers willing to come forward and give credence to Dorner’s claims. It’s very easy to discredit someone who’s never worn the LAPD uniform, but it’s not so easy when it’s one of your own, and that’s the discussion that needs to take place publicly. It’s the first real step towards ending police brutality on the streets and in the department.

I want to see the relationship between Blacks and the LAPD improve and I believe that it has.  But I also believe that we just took a huge step backwards with Dorner and no amount of community meetings with civil rights leaders and the LAPD posing for cameras is going to fix that.

It can’t be more the same.

Christopher Dorner was a game changer.

Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection of race, politics, and pop culture. She is a producer of the award-winning documentary 41st & Central: The Untold Story of the Los Angeles Black Panthers. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

El Cid February 16, 2013 at 06:26 AM
Well written - "A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity." It's fundamentally a broken department that permeates retaliation if you don't side with the LAPD BROTHERHOOD.
Punk Attitude February 16, 2013 at 04:43 PM
This was a really good article and I hope it continues to circulate on the Patch.
nonoise February 16, 2013 at 05:39 PM
This writer needs to take the course "community based police academy" at the Los Angeles police academy. After she takes that she will have the full perspective on LAPD. It's free to anyone that wants to do the 12 week, one day a week course.
nonoise February 16, 2013 at 07:40 PM
I will only comment on this one article. It is pretty fair and balanced. I appreciate that. I hope the real issue gets addressed and that is a possible abuse of power. I challenge everyone to ask your local police station to do the CBAP course. It is an eyeopening experience.
Scott Rubel February 16, 2013 at 07:56 PM
I agree that this course would be an eye-opener for any citizen, but what "perspective" do you need on racism? It's wrong and the PD needs a thorough investigation and purge.
Stephanie February 16, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Dorner's manifesto was to clear his name. Game changer? I'm glad he was let go by the LAPD, he was not cut out to be a police officer. Sorry, I can't see him as some hero trying to end police brutality. I think it's wrong to pretend that he wasn't a cold, calculating killer. As a community member, I don't think it's my "job" to stand up for what Dorner was doing. He's no hero of mine.
Jasmyne Cannick February 16, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Thanks nonoise. For the record, I am not against the LAPD. I am clear on who I am going to call on in an emergency and who works to make sure that I am safe. My mother worked for the LAPD, so I grew up with the LAPD. Second, I've participated in every community course, meetings, etc. I've been asked to by the LAPD. I did the simulation at Newton, where I was able to walk in the shoes of an officer and see what it's like to to try and catch a suspect when you are being shot at and there are innocent people around. So, please do not think I am one of those that are against the department. But that said, it doesn't mean there aren't some serious issues within the department as well. Right now, the department is in the middle of another pr nightmare and how it's handled will dictate whether or not all of the hard work that's gone into repairing its image and relationship with the community, in particularly Blacks, has gone down the tube.
Olga Hall February 17, 2013 at 04:48 AM
The Code of Silence that exists in LAPD is unacceptable and it has to change. Like in any other organization there is good and bad. There are some very nice policemen and some that are very bad, the uniform gives them power and if they have the tendencies of a “bully” they will beehive as such because they have the law on their side. There has to be a law where there will be no retaliation against any member of the police department when they become “whistle blowers” or better yet those that retaliate will be punished to the full extent of the law and be fired from the police force. I know they risk their lives every day but that is the choice they made and they took an oath to abide the law and if they want our respect they have to be ethical and not behave like a criminal. A Code of Silence creates criminals in an Ethical environment there is no need for it.
family 1st February 17, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Problems within the department? Of course!! Show me 1 pd worldwide that doesn't have issues! Dorner went about it all wrong....killing all those people and traumatizing many others is not the way to make a point! Im glad he's dead because now my lapd cadet son can continue his community service in uniform and not worry about some psychotic idiot on a rampage!! 1 less loser 2 worry about!
nonoise February 17, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Jas, this is an extremely difficult issue on so many levels. LAPD needs to find a better way to police itself. Community complaints need to be better listened to. Most of the time you just get a letter in the mail saying they found no wrong doing which is not true. I think an "undercover boss" is in order. Something just like the television show. I know I have run into many officers that say or did the wrong thing. And, race is not always an issue. I am not a minority either. Half the police force is now supervisors and not street officers. There are now too many supervisors not supervising. I suggest an "undercover boss" that would show how officers really do their job. But then many officers would be fired and LAPD doesn't want that. I have seen good and bad. And, the bad I have seen just do mean things. Of course, usually only things that are one person's words against another so there is no proof of the incident. I know others that have seen worse. I also know good officers. But the bad should at least be disciplined with write ups.
El Cid February 17, 2013 at 04:40 PM
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” I'm not totally confident LAPD has the leadership to do it! NBC Reporter Ana Garcia on Chief Beck - LAPD's Chief Beck Defends Email Ordering Arrests After Bunny Investigation. Chief Beck lost his cool on the interview. "The best example of leadership, is leadership by example!" The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on the individual and their loved ones. In the end, I believe the price is well worth holding on to one's DIGNITY! CHARACTER DOES MATTER!
Doug Mortenson February 18, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Sick! What is wrong with you, Jasmyne? "Whether or not you agree or disagree with Dorner's actions"?? Anyone who agrees with Dorners actions is a perfect example of what's wrong with society, which includes LAPD! There is absolutely no justification for the cacodemonic actions of this sociopath. I wonder, Jasmyne, can you even repeat the names of those innocent lives cut short because of this imps inability to behave like a man? Their names: Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence, murdered in cold blood, by a man who hunted them, sat waiting, then ambushed them, for the sheer sport of killing them. And why, Jasmyne? Because he didn't consider Randal Quan's "defense" good enough? Anyone who considers that justification is far worse a human being than any bigot at LAPD!! And please explain the justification of killing Michael Crain? He wasn't LAPD, he wasn't in pursuit of Dormer, yet Dormer shot him like a dog-in-the-street. Neither was Jeremiah McKay LAPD. Perhaps his white skin gives you Dorner fans a modicum of satisfaction? There are civilized avenues for breaching and removing the crimes you say are endemic. Like elections. If you truly are committed to removing intolerance and corruption at LAPD, how about starting with Bernie Parks? Where was he during all this? Why isn't he speaking out? Anyone who agrees with or supports Dorners actions is guilty of everything you say exists at LAPD.
nonoise February 18, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Clearly what Dorner did was totally wrong. He never should have been an LAPD officer. This is what happens when society continues to teach hate and brainwashes you into the "you are a victim" mode. LAPD has drastically changed. But there are still issues. And, they not usually not race issues either. LAPD has the most minorities and women on the police force than most places. We have to stop blaming everything on race. We have to look at each situation individually. And, that is probly where I disagree with you, Jas. You last post seemed like you are most balanced then your blog post. So, I think some are getting mixed messages from you.
Anna Bella Vonburen February 19, 2013 at 03:36 AM
Nonoise, you need to understand that you are not an all knowing being. And athough i believe that in this instance, necessity dictated the means, you nor I are privy to enough information to be calling Dorner's actions either 'wrong' or 'right'. The fact that anyone believes that they do know enough to make such a blunt judgement is sad to say the least. The media lies, people. The cops lie. People lie; it is in our nature. That being said, I believe that people are focused so closely on the killings that Dorner committed and are choosing to omit the wrongs and murders caused by this proved to be corrupt law force full of people that are putting themselves in a sort of godlike position. Like it or not they are at home with their families and enjoying life while a young woman and her daughter -as well as others, are in the ground. And for what reason? Trigger happy, power mad, idocracy. They burned a man to death. No trial, no justice, not even a chance. Like an animal. Has the LAPD changed? Well it has certainly improved its front but obviously they are nowhere near being an acceptable or trustworthy force. Many many more changes need to happen because this whole situation is just disgusting.
nonoise February 19, 2013 at 04:34 PM
The man had plenty of chances to give up but chose not to. The man killed himself. I think that is pretty clear. Shots being fired where there are propane gas tanks around certainly there is cause that a fire might happen. But that was not the cause of death. Anna, I agree that LAPD has improved and it still needs change. But change does not happen until all those supervisors start doing their job and really supervisoring their employees. And, that is not just with LAPD. It is the same with any job. Community complaints do not really get heard. They just get dismissed. LAPD puts on a good front that they care and want to know. But when investigated, they dismiss most complaints. LAPD does have some great and respectful officers. It is a shame that the bad ones put on bad name on them too. I have seen abuses. Change is still needed. Supervisors need to do their job and supervisor. That seems not to be happening.
nonoise February 19, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Anna, I am not an all knowing human being. But I have seen a lot.
Silvia February 19, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Any one who has grown up in LA knows that MOST (not all) LAPD is a good as a street thug. Doner's menifesto didn't shed light on any thing new. This isn't about rascism against blacks, so don't turn it into that. Don't forget the corrupt cops from the Rampart scandal were black! This is about the abuse of authority within the LAPD. This is about brutilizing human beings when they are in custody and the honest cops who try to make wrong, right. And in any prison society there is race wars unfortunately it's leaking out into the Cops, Sheriffs, staff. The officers in that infectious environment are out numbered. What they need are classes and psychological help, weekly training, seminars, whatever it takes to keep them in touch with reality.
Stephanie February 19, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Anna, What mother and daughter are in the ground? The media lies? I guess so because if you heard from the media that a mother and daughter are in the ground that is a lie. You say the cops are at home with their families? What about the police officer and the sheriff's deputy that Dorner killed? Their families are shattered as are the families with members who were wounded by Dorner. He killed 2 civilians also, but I guess we shouldn't focus on that you say? I'm focusing on what a cold blooded stalking killer Dorner was. To see him as some glorious whistle blower is sad and misplaced. Like I said before, he is no hero of mine. And they didn't burn him to death, he died of a single most likely self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He could have come out of that cabin. All that stuff in his manifesto and he died like a coward.
Stephanie February 19, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Anna, " you nor I are privy to enough information to be calling Dorner's actions either 'wrong' or 'right'." Seriously? You don't know if murder is right? He shot those 2 deputies and they didn't even have their guns drawn! C'mon, wake up!
Doug Mortenson February 20, 2013 at 05:09 PM
If half of what is being claimed about LAPD today, is true, then answer these questions: Where is your Mayor? Why isn't he speaking out? Then why did you vote for him? Where is your city attorney? Where is your states attorney? Where is your attorney General? Where are your Senators? Congressman? What you're accusing LAPD of are federal crimes, where is the president you voted for twice? Eric Holder? Are they all a part of the conspiracy? Get off your butts and start shaking some trees, better yet, use your brain next time you vote for someone. You will never see any change until you remove the entrenched.
Stephanie February 20, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Why should the mayor, the DA, or the president get involved? The police, and sheriff's department did their jobs. Yes, shooting those 3 people was a massive mistake, thank God none of them died. But besides that, and I know it's a big deal, I think the police and sheriff's did a fine job. People don't like the outcome, but that is how one must handle violent criminals. Are they supposed to pass some prayer beads and form a circle to sing to the guy? Please!
Kim Neal February 21, 2013 at 02:05 AM
There are so many prisms to this story...I was surprised when I found myself rooting for Officer Dorner..then it hit me! Why? Well, a collective sigh could be heard when the world read why he did what he did. I know and you know and they know we all know! Police officers have an extremely tough job. They are not supposed to be doctors, therapists, God or Jesus. We need to take the mentally ill out of the hands of the criminal justice system. This will alleviate a lot of misunderstood brutality. Someone ..somewhere needs to ERASE the Blue Line. Police Officers should not be forced to choose suffering in silence or risking your livelihood . Whatever happens..My hope is that the innocent lives that were lost will stand for some new beginning . I can't believe I witnessed something so tragic in my lifetime...Bless All involved..and to the writer, WOWII ! Good for you ! Great piece ! Take a lesson people..Stand up! Be Heard!
EagleRockMom February 23, 2013 at 03:32 AM
Amen.
Knives666 February 26, 2013 at 05:18 PM
The police were pretty quick to cover everything up in big bear. Leave no lose-ends to any truths known by the fallen rouge cop. Funny how they said to the media they "did not intentionally start the fire," coming from a white police officer. I think I believe him ...... right.... . Cops run red lights, talk on cellphones while driving, carry loaded weapons with lots of ammo, give the good people driving out there a hard time, buzz the skies with the loud ass helicopters, and use up all the good taxpayers' $$$. The government wants to restrict munitions and guns to up hold its blue gustapo as top dogs of these streets. They want people to think there is nothing bad with how cops run the show that is all for our better good and protection. Hmmm..... sounds fishy don't it.
Kim Neal February 27, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Anyone who thinks he "know nothing" knows nothing...
Stephanie February 27, 2013 at 04:58 AM
Hey, you want to take seriously the words of a psychopathic killer be my guest. He hadn't been on the force for 4 years, I'm sure he has lots to say, NOT!
Stephanie February 27, 2013 at 04:58 AM
Cover up what exactly? These was a 4 hour stand off and Dorner could have come out anytime. They were trying to smoke him out and he chose to shoot himself in the head. This was the sheriffs department not the LAPD in Big Bear running the standoff. And what do you think Dorner was going to say. He was on the force for 10 months 4 years ago, he knows nothing. Anyone who thinks he was some fallen martyr is delusional.
Glen K Dunbar March 20, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Dear Princess Jasmyne: hi nice to meet you. I am Glen from New Canaan, CT I hope it is OK if I join YOUR patch here in LA Why do I want to join here compared to New Canaan?? Well, I HATE New Canaan dearly. It is wronged me and I am shunned for life and have NO love or friends. regarding LAPD. I do not know. It must be a very very hard job. So, I will not Judge here. The Police where I live believe it or not if I have to be honest are actualy pretty cool and nice. Yet, sometimes they nit pick over nonsense and get their priorities mixed up when they should let certain things "just go" If you want to be my friend Jasmyne...feel free to write or anyone here. Thanks GLEN

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