Did Dorner Have Legitimate Complaints Against LAPD?

PHOTO: This Feb. 12, 2013 image made from video provided by KABC-TV shows the cabin in Big Bear, Calif. where ex-Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner, believed to be barricaded inside. A body pulled from the ruins was later identified as Dorner.

(AP Photo/KABC-TV)

The manhunt for fugitive ex-cop Christopher Dorner ended when the cabin where he'd taken refuge during a shootout with police burst into flames and burned to the ground. The alleged killer remained inside and died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to officials.

No one will defend the inexplicable behavior Dorner showed toward those he murdered. But that doesn't mean some aren't considering the validity of the complaints that allegedly fueled his crime spree.

The manifesto accuses the Los Angeles Police Department of systemic misconduct. Dorner claimed there is a culture of racism, corruption and a code of silence in the department, allegations that have been leveled at the LAPD before.

In the manifesto, Dorner claimed he was dismissed when he broke that code of silence. He wrote that he saw a superior officer kicking a mentally ill man.

Some sympathize with the complaints Dorner cited, if not the actions that followed. "He was shut up by being fired," said Antonio H. Rodriguez, a civil-rights attorney based in Los Angeles. "The code of silence took its most extreme form with him."

Rodriguez says he wasn't surprised by the accusations of misconduct outlined in Dorner's manifesto. He says that while the behavior of the LAPD has improved since the days of Daryl Gates, who presided over the department during the Rodney King scandal and the riots that followed, it remains problematic.

"This is part of the culture of the LAPD," he said. "There's a culture of racism."

The present and former police chiefs, Charlie Beck and Bill Bratton, have worked to change the culture within the department. But according to Rodriguez, unless they begin to do away with the entrenched code of silence, those changes will be meaningless and won't become standard practice among the rank and file.

At a press conference Tuesday, Emada Tingirides, a sergeant whose husband, a police captain, had been named in the manifesto, disagreed with allegations made against the LAPD. According to Neontommy.com, Tingirides said she was "sick to her stomach" when she read parts of Dorner's manifesto that claimed the LAPD was still in "the Rodney King era."

"It infuriated me because nothing could be farther from the truth," said Tingirides, an African American. "I have never experienced racism in [the] LAPD and that he justified the things he was doing with that claim and I knew in my heart that was false."

Whether Dorner's allegations are true or not, he has found sympathy among some segments of the L.A. community. Dorner-inspired graffiti and online groups that speak out against the LAPD or in support of Dorner have popped up.

"It brought up a lot of old toxic ghosts," said Celeste Fremon, crime reporter and editor of the Witness LA blog.

The revelation that the San Bernardino sheriffs started the fire, which began when authorities deployed incendiary tear gas canisters specified strictly for outdoor use, raised the already fraught matter of whether Southern California law enforcement uses excessive force.

The LAPD's recent shooting of two Latinas allegedly mistaken for Dorner served to damage the department's image even more. The women were delivering newspapers in a pickup truck where the make, model and color did not match that of Dorner.

Beck characterized the incident as "a tragic misinterpretation" by officers who were working under "incredible tension," according to the Los Angeles Times.

"One of the things that jumped out to me and community members is the casual demonization of certain communities [of] people who may or not break the law," said Fremon. "It's a psychological brutality sometimes even more than a physical brutality, which we see as well."

As an example, Fremon pointed to Alex Sanchez, a local gang intervention leader who was charged with gang-related crimes in 2009. A judge recently dismissed the charges. The prosecution admitted the case against Sanchez was "flawed."

On Tuesday, LAPD Chief Beck endorsed the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department's actions against Dorner and said that results of an investigation of Dorner's dismissal will be made public.

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