The manhunt is over and the body of suspected murderer Christopher Dorner has been positively identified. Dorner's alleged murder spree left four people dead, including two police officers. Four others were injured. But the allegations by the former Los Angeles police officer against the LAPD are opening some old wounds, especially in the black community.
In an online manifesto, Dorner alleged he was unjustly fired from the LAPD after reporting that a fellow officer kicked a mentally ill suspect. Dorner, who was black, also accused officers of using racial slurs. The Los Angeles Police Department is moving forward with its review into Dorner’s dismissal back in 2008. Guest host Tara Siler talks with Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles who has represented many black officers over the years who have sued the LAPD.
Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
TARA SILER, HOST: Given your own experience as a civil rights attorney, do any of Dorner's allegations ring true to you?
CONNIE RICE: Yes, they do and when I read the manifesto, my heart sank. But I also know that the LAPD of today is not Daryl Gates' LAPD, and it's not the LAPD that my clients had to battle. We're quite a ways away from the days when the leadership of LAPD actually condoned and embraced openly racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic behavior.
SILER: And yet his allegations seem to have struck a raw nerve in the city, especially in the black community. On some social media postings, some said his actions were wrong, but they clearly sympathize with him. Some have called him a hero. Are you surprised by these responses?
RICE: No, no not at all. And for the next 20 years, every time there's a high-profile incident, we should expect to see the residual community memory to come to the fore because there was a war between LAPD and the black community in LA. The abuse and the emasculation and the mass humiliation that LAPD inflicted on the black community is not going to disappear, those feelings about that mistreatment are not going to disappear overnight.
SILER: Police Chief Charlie Beck says he's going to open an inquiry into Dorner's firing. What impact do you think this review might have on people's skepticism about the LAPD?
RICE: I think the chief needs to take this moment and create the teaching moment of life. He can stand up, and look at the public, and he can say whether we can figure out definitively what happened to Dorner: "Here's what I do know. I'm a white officer and I grew up with my black LAPD brothers and I know what they went through."
He can lay out that history in a raw, honest way and then he can say, "Those days are over, we're not having that anymore and I'm here to pledge to you that the ghosts of LAPD's past are dead."
SILER: Yet, during the manhunt, two innocent women were shot without warning; their truck was riddled with bullets by police. There was also this decision to use a highly flammable canister on Dorner, which we think led to the burning of the cabin. This can't build confidence in the city.
RICE: Well, no. But those are separate issues. One is [a] total panic situation and I think those cops can kiss their careers away. You're supposed to be a professional and you're not supposed to panic like that, and they did. So that's one issue.
Anytime you have a takedown of a suspect like this, it's not going to end nicely for anybody, and those canisters of hot tear gas, they always set stuff on fire. I know about the conspiracy theories in the community and so forth, but I found nothing tactically unusual about anything they did. If anything they were extremely conservative. I expected them to shoot him down in cold blood, I really did. And they would have been within their rights to do so.
SILER: In your mind, what does LAPD need to do to improve its policing? If you can point to one or two things, next steps?
RICE: They need a course taught in the academy that's entitled "Why They Hate Us." There are young cops in the LAPD today who are very confused by the community, seeing t-shirts supporting Dorner and bumper stickers supporting Dorner, because they don't know the history of LAPD. They don't know that LAPD used to make a sport of hunting black people and so that needs to be taught.
The second thing is that they need to change their disciplinary system. I had written a report before that said they needed to get rid of the Board of Rights system. It's a very incestuous, politicized system that doesn't look for facts, doesn't try to figure out what happened in a certain situation given any complaint they're trying to adjudicate. Further down the line, and away and apart from this incident, [there are] the community safety partnership police, these are cops who are problem solving cops. They are solving the problems of poor communities and the community reveres them. That's what we need to expand and that's the work of the future.
SILER: Connie Rice is a civil rights attorney based in Los Angeles.