Interview on Chris DonerRead Now
How do you see the case?
There was a police officer with former Navy training that may have been unjustly fired from the force, which impacted his Navy reserve status as well. This complete career ending episode just left the guy with little hope of the future and changed fundamentally how he saw himself and the LAPD. He thought a vendetta was the only way to resolve his feeling of injustice.
Do you see this case altering the way LAPD handles inside complaints of officer vs. officer?
Who knows? You hope that the LAPD will start to separate more the internal affairs department from the actual police. The issue goes down to who do you hire? It makes sense to hire former police in the internal affairs to be able to objectively evaluate such cases, but that in turn lends itself to possible corruption and cronyism. You are my friend, protect him kind of issue could definitely come up.
I think a great way to handle such cases is simple to transfer an officer to a different district to see if the same issue arises with other officers before submitting termination cases.
What did you think of the manifesto?
I think there are two important points to separate: system issues vs. personal issues. He points out that some of the officers involved in the Rodney King beating are still employed and actually promoted. I think that in itself speaks loudly of not learning any lessons from that obvious police brutality issue caught on video in 1992. That case sparked the whole LA Riots with mass looting, $800+ million in property damage and 53 people killed and 2000+ injured from a lack of justice from the courts and the police.
The fact that Dorner had to defend himself against constantly name calling of the word “nigger” by other white officers likely is true as well. Its sad that that type of behavior is openly tolerated within the ranks.
The other part of the case are personal of the officer, lawyer and court colluding together. Here, the only people that know the truth are the people involved. Hopefully, the truth comes out.
Why did he decide to take out officers families?
I guess he reached his breaking point as both his new and former Navy career were effectively terminated simultaneously. I think anyone in that spot would be devastated personally and entertain vendetta type of thinking. The sad thing is that he likely could have maybe written a book possibly to expose the crimes of the department maybe. I’m sure they likely will make a TV movie on his case to say the least in the next 5 years.
In his type of career going from the Navy to local police, both are monopoly type of organizations. In these monolithic organizations, once you leave then you cannot just join another police department or Navy. So it is a very challenging career in the sense that if you screw up a bit, your whole career can be on the line permanently.
Another motive beside the personality break-down was the culture clash between the Navy and LAPD. I think in the US services integration started in the 1940s and is likely one of the most progressive in integration for military/police type of careers. While the LAPD, had the deadly race riots in the 1960s, Rodney King Race Riots in 1989 and now this event. The inviting culture of the Navy gave Chris the feeling that he was valued while the LAPD actively tried to tag him with racist names all the time. It must have been quite a shock to the system.
Additionally, I think that many of the LAPD, who only had police careers probably don’t particularly care for ex-Navy or other ex-Services personnel as they may be considered too elite for the police. That would have been another harsh fact to face going from honor to being made fun of as an ex-Navy guy as well.
Any way you cut it, it still is not acceptable to kill the family of police regardless of the charges of racism, lack of honor or career injustice.
Do you think the LAPD will reform?
This is hard to say. Since people the longest in the force have lived through the 1960s or at least the 1989 riots and are the senior staff, there is still an element of racism to work on.
Why is the LAPD racist?
Well, partially it boils down to simple statistics. If you look at the local population, most of the crimes are caused by minorities of color disproportionately to their population size. So a cop would use racial profiling to be successful in catching perpetrators and this type of action would in itself reinforce racism. A cop could use racial profiling justly, but cause the innocent minorities in the population to think that the police sees them as criminals in general. It really is a nasty circle as growing up being seen as a criminal leads one to then consider being a criminal as a destiny rather than a personal choice. I personally have seen how police have reacted to youth in Chicago; you couldn’t wear a baseball cap in the car or the cops thought you were gang bangers.
Another challenge of the city is it has massively distinct populations all across the city: Korea town, Chinatown, Ethiopians, Bangladesh, etc. This creates confusion as people cannot communicate fluidly in the same language, culture rules differ, understanding of the law may differ and fear of the police comes about. All this interesting culture makes for a challenging police environment as police as constantly challenged to make crime victims, arrestees and criminals understand what the police want and what the law is. When one is frustrated, you might take it out on someone; you definitely can make a connection there in some cases.
Another huge issue in the city is its vastness. You literally can drive 3 hours and not leave LA. The citizens driving around regularly engage in road rage after commuting one too many days 2+ hours and lose it on a fellow driver that cut them off. So you can only imagine how the police have to deal with this issue and the same type of insane number of hours driving themselves in this charged environment. I see this as a major issue that drives a particular type of LA criminal behavior as well as police behavior.
Would you consider living in LA?
I really love the art scene and the possibility of becoming a major artist there. The down side is seeing the terrible commuting in traffic on a daily basis, remote isolation in your car, inhumane scale of LA and the constant air pollution. The food is awesome though; it blows away bay area food.
Another down side is seeing how the LAPD see graffiti art in LA is depressing. I think the LA has a serious issue with tagging, but I think the LAPD takes it a bit too far. They recently have moved against creating murals even by artists, so it can be a bit sterile with bland advertising only. Its a real challenge for the police to find the right balance of murals vs. tagging.
I think the graffiti issue would not be so massive if the US Engineers did not make the LA river completely cement. This really created the largest blank canvas for any graffiti artist. Then the police adds barbed wire like its a war zone and it really is a crazy environment. Most cities enjoy the river front while LA has a war zone atmosphere.
I think the city should reopen the LA river for the public to actively walk as well as give a venue for legal murals through the whole cemented LA river. Right now, the whole river is off limits, so the majority is ugly tags for the most parts and some nice pieces as well. How the public in LA doesn’t protest this ugly feature of the city I don’t get it. Another possibility could be to tear down the cement walls and create a series of dams. This could revert more to a natural river vs. the current massively polluted river.
Have you done any artwork on the case?
I did two pieces related to the case. This one is called “Day in the Dorner Cabin”. This is the final scene where Dorner was trapped in the cabin and there is speculation that the police may have intentionally set it aflame. At that point, he committed suicide rather than burn alive. You can see in the video they make no attempt to put out the fire, but would you put out a fire on someone shooting with a possible sniper rifle?
My second work is called “Betraying the Blue Line”. It is the turning point where Dorner’s former life completely shatters and leads to him writing the manifesto. It shows the release of violence boiling inside of him at that moment.
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