Dorner Must Not Have Known

Chris Dorner, the ex-Los Angeles police officer, must not have known that injustice…is real.

The story about  Dorner,  who has gone on a shooting rampage targeting other police officers, is intriguing and troubling, yet it speaks to some truths that we all live with.

Dorner has apparently snapped because of a grudge he has been holding for a number of years. According to news reports, he feels that he was unjustly fired from the Los Angeles Police Department. He is angry, according to reports, that “his truth” was not accepted and despite his best efforts to seek justice for himself, he failed.

A court upheld the action taken by the police department. The court hearing his case was apparently his hope, but his last hope, and when the court supported the police department, it was too much for Dorner.

In 2007, Dorner was a probationary police officer involved in the arrest of a man in San Pedro. He, along with his training officer, Teresa Evans, responded to a complaint of a man causing a disturbance in a hotel lobby. According to news reports, they found the man sitting outside the hotel when they arrived. They tried to take him into custody but he arrested. Dorner apparently wrestled him to the ground and Evans allegedly tasered him, after which the suspect surrendered to police.

A couple of weeks later, however, Dorner went to a sergeant and said that Evans, his partner and training officer, had kicked the suspect after he was down, after he had surrendered. The complaint was investigated by the police and was found to be unwarranted. Apparently Dorner had waited too long to report the apparent and alleged misconduct of Evans…That fact, coupled with the fact that hotel employees questioned would not corroborate Dorner’s claim, resulted in the investigation being ruled in Evans’ favor and Dorner being fired from the police force. Dorner was found guilty of having made untrue statements against a superior officer.

Dorner rose up in protest, taking his case to court. But the court, the center of the justice system, was not doling out the justice that Dorner sought, either.It seemed that nobody would listen to him and his rage grew deeper and deeper.

Injustice really does exist.

Dorner, who had also served in the military, learned this sad fact. He dared report his training officer, waiting two weeks to do so …and it backfired on him. What would have happened had he reported the alleged kicking of the suspect immediately? We do not know, but it is safe to assume that he was probably afraid to do so. It is safe to assume that what he saw bothered him so much, though, that he decided to take the risk and report one of his own. It didn’t work. At the end of the day, he was odd man out.

Dorner, one guesses, believed in justice and in the power of truth. He forgot, however, that police have been known to protect each other from the most heinous wrongs and accusations. He was not “in” the department yet; he was in training. He apparently did not understand that police officers, from what we read, protect their own, no matter what. If he was going to go against “his own” while he was in training, if he was that brash and arrogant, he was too big a risk to let “into” the ranks completely. He had to go.

The witnesses at the hotel who would not support Dorner’s version of what happened might very well have been visited by police and encouraged to support the official police version of what happened. It has been done before. Police know how to protect each other.

A report issued after Dorner’s claims were investigated by police said, “”The delay in reporting the alleged misconduct coupled with the witness’ statements irreparably destroy Dorner’s credibility, and bring into question his suitability for continued employment as a police officer.”  A story on said, “The report found Dorner had made false statements to a superior while reporting the allegation that Evans had kicked the suspect and to internal affairs investigators looking into the claim.” (see

Dorner couldn’t take it. He expected that someone would listen and support him, but it didn’t happen. People have a tendency that truth will always trump a lie or a series of lies, but that is not the case, not in life. Too often, lies trump and truth has to fight hard in order to bring the lies and liars down. In that process, many turn angry and bitter and disillusioned, which apparently is where Dorner found himself.

He had to live with the reality that injustice exists.

Unfortunately Dorner expected the justice system to hear him, hear his truth, and rule in his favor, but it didn’t happen. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the justice system has too often been guilty of not rendering justice, putting far too many people in prison for crimes they did not commit. According to a book written by Jim and Nancy Petro, False Justice, it is also true that even when there is compelling evidence that a guilty verdict was incorrect, the justice system is slow to consider that evidence and in many cases, ignores it. Jim and Nancy are not bleeding heart Liberals; they are steadfast Republicans who have seen the ravages of injustice within the justice system and are speaking out about it.

The reality that justice is elusive and that life isn’t fair renders people who know they are innocent to a state of despair. From what has been printed about Dorner, it seems that he is in despair, feeling like there is nowhere to go and nobody who will listen to him.

What he is doing is not going to clear his name. He will go down in history as a villain because he killed fellow police officers. What is sad is that he is feeling that his fellow police officers were not there for him, and many officers who break the code of silence practiced by police know that very feeling.

The prayer is that Dorner stops killing people soon, that he is captured before he harms any more innocent people. But from a distance, it is easy to believe that what Dorner said he saw really happened. He naively thought that this world and our justice system, beginning with police, is about justice. He sounds like he was an idealist, believing that the police are “the good guys.” Sometimes they are. Many times, they are not, and they are expert at covering up their wrongs.

He didn’t know that, apparently. He didn’t know that injustice happens, perpetrated and  supported too many times by the ones in charge of protecting people.

A candid observation …


Rodney King: American Legend?

Rodney King poster
Rodney King poster (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

An American legend has died.

Some may disagree with me, but how can Rodney King be called anything less than a legend?

When King’s horrific beating by police officers was caught on tape and publicized, I remember feeling a glimmer of hope. All along there had been cries of police brutality in the African-American community, but nobody would listen. The prevailing thought seemed to be that black people were just …bad people…and the good officers were only doing their jobs with  a people who had to be tamed.

No matter how loud the groundswell was from any particular community about what police were doing, nobody would listen. There seemed to be a “gentleman’s agreement” that what police did in black communities would remain in black communities, cries of injustice and excessive violence notwithstanding.

It made the black community feel invisible.

But with the video of King’s beating …I, and, I am sure, many others, felt like a just society would see. A justice system interested in justice would see; police departments all over the country would see; American citizens who were all too eager to write the black community off as troublemakers would see.

That belief spawned hope. Now it wouldn’t be “our” word against “theirs.” In a land where it was promised that there would be “liberty and justice for all,” justice would now come to the white officers who were caught on tape.

That was wishful thinking, however, and it really should be no surprise that after the officers were acquitted that there was a backlash. If it was that not even a video which showed what African-Americans had talked about for so long that would shake the foundations of excessive force so often used by police on African-Americans, then what would work?

King’s beating represented a raisin in the sun, a raisin of hope which exploded in a thousand fragments as that hope was dashed.

King didn’t set out to become a legend, but what happened to him thrust the issue of police violence, police brutality, into the spotlight. He became a legend by default. What happened to him, and how the justice system really ignored what was on that tape, became fodder for those whose social justice focus is police brutality. I am not quite sure how much progress has been made, but for certain, the awareness of what happens on the streets with too many citizens and police officers was heightened by King’s unfortunate experience.

Lots has been said about King’s demons. He never did really get his life under control if media accounts are to be believed. Drugs and alcohol were constant companions, and he was able to squander millions of dollars awarded to him after his beating. Everyone knows about that.

But what we may not know, or may not want to admit, is that King is a part of the American fabric, a thread in the cloth that nobody wanted in the cloth, most especially powers that be that have a vested interest in protecting the status quo.

King’s beating, and the subsequent acquittal of those officers, made a dent in a long-sanctioned system of police brutality, and that really does make him a legend.

A candid observation …




Dreams Deferred

I had been thinking about Rodney King, the African-American man who had been brutally beaten by police officers 20 years ago in Los Angeles, when suddenly, his face and name appeared on CNN. I had been thinking about him because, as I have observed the Trayvon Martin situation, it feels like justice might just elude this case, just as it did when three of the four the white police officers accused of beating King were acquitted.

Their acquittal sparked rage in the African-American community. Then-mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, said that that the officers did not “deserve to wear the uniform of the L.A.P.D. and even President George H.W. Bush said that it was hard to understand the acquittals, given what the videotape showed.

Incredulous as it seemed, though, the acquittals were a reality and fed a rage across the nation generally but in Los Angeles specifically that is not too far below the surface of the spirits of African-Americans, because years of injustice and feeling like second-class citizens breeds despair which leads to rage. That the “justice” system could let the white officers go back then, in light of and in spite of videotape which showed the brutal beating of King,  meant that once again, an African-American life was not valued. The not-so-deep rage erupted into violence.

I have been thinking about the King case as I have watched the Martin case. What Trayvon’s  parents want is justice, but from the start, that goal has been met with resistance. It seems that a great effort has been to defend and protect George Zimmerman , and to blame the victim, Trayvon, for his own death.

It is a strategy and scenario almost too painful to talk about.

The ever-present despair of African-Americans is something the majority culture does not want to talk about, but it is there, and it is dangerously flammable. It is remarkable that there have not been more outbursts of violence in response to that despair. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that “for more than two centuries, our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross  injustice and shameful humiliation and yet, out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop.”

That “bottomless vitality” is something I like to call “crazy faith,” a stubborn belief that, surely, things will get better; surely this insane injustice primarily attributable to racism cannot be interminable.

White culture does not want African-Americans to be angry, but white culture does not want to address the institutional and structural racism that causes the anger.  White culture strives to hold onto its power, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but in its quest to maintain its power, it has stripped people from other ethnic groups, not just African-Americans – not only of any power they might have, but of their very dignity.

That in and of itself is a recipe for explosive rage, but it becomes an even more potent problem and reality given that we live in a country which prides itself on being “just.” America is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” America’s founding fathers wrote that “all men are created equal,”  and it is on the basis of America’s own stated ethos that African-Americans and others demand justice – equally meted out.

It does not happen – equally meted out justice does not happen here.  Statistics and studies show that African-Americans receive stiffer penalties than do whites arrested for the same crimes; African-American children are more likely to receive suspensions and expulsions, again while white children who have done the same things tend to get off easier.

At the end of the day, there is yet something that we don’t want to talk about that is killing us – and that is that the primary tumor  – the reason for the rampant and unequal justice in this country – is racism, the belief that African-Americans are objects and not human beings, inferior to whites, capable of doing little right. African-Americans watching the Trayvon Martin case are right there – cringing with the feeling that yet again, a black life seems unimportant. No matter what Zimmerman’s attorneys and others say, the Trayvon Martin shooting is about justice possibly being elusive because the victim was black.

When the rage erupted after Rodney King’s attackers got off, many white people seemed not to understand. The Los Angeles riots were about dreams deferred. The riots were about years of being ignored and blamed for their own oppression. The riots were about the anger that could not be contained as the arrogance of a racist justice system shoved its power in the faces of those who so deeply yearn for justice.

The mood and spirit in this country because of the Trayvon Martin case.  What seems like a cut-and-dry case of an armed man shooting and killing an unarmed young black man is not, it seems, so cut and dry. There is a good possibility that George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder – might be acquitted of all charges.

What then? How long can this nation keep ignoring racism, especially in light of how it is eating away at the very sinews of this country? It really seems like it’s time, past time, for “change we can believe in.” Without that change, this flesh-eating bacteria called racism will continue to eat away at the very soul of America. Rodney King remembers how and why the rage erupted. The country should remember, too.

A candid observation…

The Racial Double Standard of American Politics

Republican Presidential candidates at the Ames...
Image via Wikipedia

For the past few days, there has been much attention placed on comments made by Republican presidential hopefuls as concerns their thoughts and opinions about black people.

Needless to say, there has been little to nothing complimentary. New Gringrich says black kids have no work ethic; he thinks black kids ought to get part time jobs as janitors (and thereby push the union guys out who have a job to support their families). He most recently said that black people ought to demand paychecks, not food stamps.

Rick Santorum said that President Obama ought to oppose abortion because he’s black. More outrageous, he said, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”

He has since said he didn’t say “black” people and that he stumbled on his words; he was “tongue-tied.”

Ron Paul has been linked to newsletters published under his name which have published ridiculously bigoted statements. A newsletter which referred to the 1992 riots in Los Angeles had Paul saying that “order was only restored when it was time for blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

Never mind that these statements are inaccurate and feed into a mindset that black people are lazy, that they dominate the welfare rolls, and, by suggestion, that black people and their plight are largely responsible for the vast amount of entitlement spending.

What I have noticed is that these politicians often say things like this when they are in the midst of all-white, receptive audiences.  GOP presidential candidates have been famous for ignoring the conference of the NAACP, something which New Gingrich recently faulted them for and said he would go if he is invited.

But what hit me is that GOP candidates make no effort to talk to black and brown people, though they say they want more black and brown people to join their ranks. They unabashedly cater not only to white people, but to white people whose views align with theirs.

That is politically all right, and necessary, one guesses, but if a person is elected president of this nation, isn’t he or she supposed to represent, to know and understand, the needs of all of the people?

Had President Barack Obama only catered to black people, he would never have been elected, and he would have been labeled a racist. One of his weaknesses has been that he has tried hard not to be “too black,” too interested in the needs of black and brown people. He has really partnered with big business an awful lot; he has reached across the aisles and tried to practice bi-partisanship, but it hasn’t worked.

But that’s what a president is supposed to do, right?

The point is, that if a person wants to be president, he or she ought to “sit down” with some of everyone who is American: Jewish, Muslim, black, white, rich, poor, Appalachian…America is a diverse nation. White candidates ought not be allowed to get away with just catering to a sympathetic and supportive white base.

Rick Santorum felt perfectly at ease talking about how black people ought not be using other peoples’ money to his all white, Mid-West audience the other night. I doubt he would have been comfortable saying that had he been speaking to a mixed crowd in an urban environment.

It is an ideal, I know, but the president of this nation ought to be at least ostensibly trying to reach out to all of America’s people and groups. The role of president on one level is not unlike that of a pastor, who has to be connected to all of his or her congregants, no matter how different.

Too many GOP candidates don’t seem to understand this basic requirement.

A candid observation …

© 2012 Candid Observations