WASHINGTON, February 17, 2013 – After killing four and injuring three, former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner took his own life with a single shot to his head.
Reports about the response of the LAPD and recordings of statements by officers who surrounded the cabin where Dorner was hiding suggest the police had no plan to capture Dorner alive.
Dorner released a manifesto before embarking on his rampage which was highly critical of the LAPD.
In his manifesto, Dorner wrote:
“From 2/05 to 1/09 I saw some of the most vile things humans can inflict on others as a police officer in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the streets of LA. It was in the confounds of LAPD police stations and shops (cruisers). The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. How ironic that you utilize a fixed glass structure as your command HQ. You use as a luminous building to symbolize that you are transparent, have nothing to hide, or suppress when in essence, concealing, omitting, and obscuring is your forte.”
His statements, combined with the information from the crisis and other reports of police brutality around the country beg the question, are local police turning against citizens?
Have we allowed our police to employ strong-arm tactics when they should use restraint?
Have we given our police too much leeway in employing overbearing techniques against potential perpetrators?
No one can justify Dorner’s methods. However, the corollary question is whether police made an appropriate effort to find, subdue and arrest Dorner, or whether the LAPD resorted to excessive force to simply rid themselves of Dorner.
Before police located Dorner, officers shot a mother and daughter who were driving a vehicle similar to Dorner’s. This again suggests a shoot to kill attitude rather than an arrest-and-trial mandate.
The use of excessive force is not limited to the LAPD. Following Katrina, New Orleans police exploited a mandate to shoot looters.
“We have authority by martial law to shoot looters,” then Commander James Scott, 1st district told officers. Scott is now caption of a special operations division.
Police shot eleven civilians in the aftermath of Katrina. In his suit against the City of New Orleans, et. al., Jose Holmes, Jr. alleges that police shot him multiple times.
“Prior to opening fire on Jose Holmes, Jr., James Barsett, Leonard Bartholomew, Sr., Susan Bartholomew, Leisha Bartholomew and Leonard Bartholomew, Jr., the shooters made no announcements, gave no warnings and issued no verbal instructions. There were no markings on the truck or anything to identify these individuals as law enforcement officers.”
Holmes complaint is chilling, as are the aftermath reports. As “Pro Publica” reports:
“The autopsy reports show that Ronald Madison, 40, was shot once in the shoulder and five times in the back, while 17-year-old James Brissette was killed by seven gunshots.
The survivors were seriously injured: Susan Bartholomew lost her right arm as a result of the gunfire; Lesha Bartholomew suffered four gunshot wounds; Leonard Bartholomew was shot three times; and Jose Holmes Jr. had to have a colostomy after he was shot in the stomach.”
Charges against all officers, called the Danziner 7 in the media, were dropped following a technical error in the D.A.’s office, leaving open the question of whether the officers exhibited restraint in their duties or whether they employed street jurisprudence.
The police have a difficult job, and often need to make fast decisions often under tense circumstances.
And while many officers are good and just in their administration of their duties, the issuance of street justice against citizens is far too wide spread to be ignored.
The practice of warning potential perpetrators has been replaced with arrest, too often accompanied by excessive use of force where none is justified.
Is the excuse of “emotions running high” defensible? Are laws that define “resisting arrest,” and which allow police to use excessive force, as being any action, even a non-violent verbal question, that is not the complete and total submission of a citizen to the police, regardless of circumstances?
In Washington, DC, for example, police officers beat a wheelchair-bound, homeless man after he used foul language in speaking to them.
A judge dismissed his police brutality suit.
Regardless of the strict interpretation of the law, it is difficult to justify any police beating of a suspect once he is subdued on the ground.
Will authorities investigate and reprimand the LAPD officers who shot the mother and daughter in the truck during the Dorner search? Is “fear” now an excuse for police misbehaviour?
The number of instances of police brutality around the country is troubling. YouTube and Google searches show countless instances of police officers using excessive force against suspects. They range from Philadelphia, where police officers beat a suspect who “yelled” at them, to Georgia, where officers assaulted a drunk driving suspect.
Observers report similar cases in New Jersey and Washington and California and Texas and everywhere else.
No jurisdiction is immune.
Are police moving from protectors of the citizens to brutal enforcers? Should we fear the police? And does the Dorner rampage shine a light on the issue?
We cannot give free rein to police to mete out street justice. We cannot allow brutality and excessive force by the very people charged with protecting us.
If police are allowed to cross the line from peace to violence and decide guilt or innocence on the spot, what is the difference between those officers’ actions and the rampage of Christopher Dorner?
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