Let’s not be too quick to dismiss the “ranting” of renegade LAPD officer Chris Dorner.
Dorner, a three-year police veteran and former Lieutenant in the US Navy who went rogue after being fired by the LAPD, has accused Los Angeles Police of systematically using excessive force, of corruption, of being racist, and of firing him for raising those issues through official channels.
By all media accounts, Dorner “snapped” after his firing, and has vowed to kill police in retaliation. He allegedly has already done so, with several people, including police officers and family members of police already shot dead.
Now there’s a “manhunt” involving police departments across California, focusing on the mountains around Big Bear, featuring cops dressed in full military gear and armed with semi-automatic weapons.
Nobody would argue that randomly killing police officers and their family members or friends is justified, but I think that there is good reason to suspect that the things that Dorner claims set him off, such as being fired for reporting police brutality, and then going through a rigged hearing, deserve serious consideration and investigation.
The LAPD has a long history of abuse of minorities (actually the majority in Los Angeles, where whites are now a minority). It has long been a kind of paramilitary force — one which pioneered the military-style Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) approach to “policing.”
If you wanted a good example to prove that nothing has changed over the years, just look at the outrageous incident involving LAPD cops tasked with capturing Dorner, who instead shot up two innocent women who were delivering newspapers in a residential area of Los Angeles. The women, Margie Carranza, 47, and her mother, Emma Hernandez, 71 (now in serious condition in the hospital), were not issued any warning. Police just opened fire from behind them, destroying their truck with heavy semi-automatic fire to the point that it will have to be scrapped and replaced. The two women are lucky to be alive (check out the pattern of bullet holes in the rear window behind the driver’s position in the accompanying photo). What they experienced was the tactics used by US troops on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan, not the tactics that one expects of police. Their truck wasn’t even the right make or color, but LAPD’s “finest” decided it was better to be safe than sorry, so instead of acting like cops, they followed Pentagon “rules of engagement”: They attempted to waste the target.
LAPD officers fired on this car with clear intent to kill (check out the bullet holes behind the driver-seat position). Trouble was, it was the wrong make and wrong color, and instead of Dorner, it was two Latino women, one of whom is now in serious condition from her wounds. No warning was given before the barrage.
Local residents say that after that shooting, which involved seven LAPD officers and over 70 bullets expended, with nobody returning fire, the street and surrounding houses were pockmarked with bullet holes. The Los Angeles Times reports that in the area, there are “bullet holes in cars, trees, garage doors and roofs.”
What we had here was an example of a controversial tactic that the military employed in the Iraq War, and still employs in Afghanistan, called “spray and pray” — a tactic that led directly to the massive civilian casualties during that US war.
We shouldn’t be surprised that two brown-skinned women were almost mowed down by the LAPD–only that they somehow survived all that deadly firing directed at them with clear intent to kill.
The approach taken by those cop-hunting-cops of shooting first and asking questions later suggests that the LAPD in this “manhunt” for one of their own has no intention of capturing Dorner alive and letting him talk about what he knows about the evils rampant in the 10,000-member department. They want him dead.
When I lived in Los Angeles back in the 1970s, it was common for LAPD cops to bust into homes, gestapo-like, at 5 in the morning, guns out, to arrest people for minor things like outstanding court warrants for unpaid parking tickets, bald tires, or jaywalking.
Police helicopters also used to tail me — then an editor of an alternative news weekly — and my wife, a music graduate student, as we drove home at night. Sometimes, they would follow us from our car to front door with a brilliant spotlight, when we’d come home at night to our house in Echo Park. It was an act of deliberate intimidation. (They also infiltrated our newspaper with an undercover cop posing as a wannabe journalist. Her job, we later learned, was to learn who our sources were inside the LAPD — sources who had disclosed such things as that the LAPD had, and probably still has, a “shoot-to-kill” policy for police who fire their weapons.)
Friends in Los Angeles tell me nothing has changed, though of course the police weaponry has gotten heavier and their surveillance capabilities have gotten more sophisticated and invasive.
It is clear from the LAPD’s paramilitary response to the Occupy movement in Los Angeles, which included planting undercover cops among the occupiers, some of whom reportedly were agents provocateur who tried to encourage protesters to commit acts of violence, and which ended with police violence and gratuitous arrests, as in New York, that nothing has changed.
In other words, Dorner may be irrational, but he ain’t crazy.
A black military veteran, Dorner joined the police because he reportedly believed in service. Unable to go along with the militarist policing he saw on the job, he protested through channels and was apparently rewarded by being fired. Now, in his own violent way, he is trying to warn us all that something is rotten in the LAPD, and by extension, in the whole police system in the US. Police departments almost everywhere in the US, have morphed, particularly since 9/11/2001, from a role of providing public safety and law enforcement into agencies of brutal fascist control.
As Dorner says in his lengthy manifesto (actually quite explicit and literate, but described as “ranting” in corporate media accounts), in which he explains his actions and indicts the LAPD, “The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.”
That could be said of many US police departments, I’m afraid.
Example: Last fall, I had the experience of trying to hitchhike in my little suburban town. A young cop drove up and informed me (incorrectly, it turns out) that it was illegal to hitchhike in Pennsylvania. When I expressed surprise at this and told him I was a journalist working on an article on hitchhiking, he then threatened me directly, saying that if I continued to try and thumb a ride, he would “take you in and lock you up.”
When I called a lawyer friend and said I was inclined to take the officer up on that threat, since I was within my rights under the law hitchhiking as long as I was standing off the road, he warned me against it, saying, “You don’t know what could happen to you if you got arrested.”
And of course he’s right. An arrest, even a wrongful arrest, in the US these days can lead to an added charge — much more serious — of resisting arrest, with a court basing its judgement on the word of the officer in the absence of any other witnesses. It can also lead to physical injury or worse, if the officer wants to lie and claim that the arrested person threatened him or her.
If I had been in Los Angeles, I would most likely have been locked up for an incident like that. Forget about any warning. You aren’t supposed to talk back to cops in L.A. And if you are black or Latino, the results of such an arrest could be much worse.
I remember once witnessing LAPD cops stopping a few Latino youths who had been joyriding in what might have been a stolen car. There was a helicopter overhead, and perhaps a dozen patrol cars that had converged on the scene, outside a shopping mall in Silverlake. I ran over to see what was happening and watched as the cops grabbed the kids, none of whom was armed, out of the vehicle and slammed them against the car brutally. It was looking pretty ugly, but by then neighbors from the surrounding homes, most of them Latino, who had poured out onto their lawns because of the commotion, began yelling at the cops. One man shouted, “We see what you’re doing. These boys are all healthy. If anything happens to any of them after you arrest them we will report you!”
The cops grudgingly backed off in their attack on the boys, and took them away in a squad car. I don’t know what happened to them after that, but they were most certainly saved, by quick community response, from an on-the-spot Rodney King-style beating that could have seriously injured them, or worse.
As things stand right now, with the LAPD gunning for Dorner, and wanting him dead and silenced, not captured, the public has to worry that it has more to fear from the LAPD than it has to fear from Dorner himself. At least Dorner, in his own twisted way, has specific targets in mind. The LAPD is in “spray and pray” mode.
Chris Dorner, in happier days, now a fugitive on the run from the LAPD “manhunters”
Hopefully, Dorner will realize he can do more by figuring out a safe way to “come in from the cold” so he can try to testify about LAPD crimes, than by killing more cops. If he does manage to surrender, he’d better have a lot of support lined up to keep him safe while in custody.
It’s already clear that a lot of people in the LAPD want him dead.
- Light on the Dark Side of Dorner’s Rampage (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Violent LAPD Shoots First at Anything Resembling Suspect’s Car (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On September 10, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “LAPD to hold meetings on use of force policies.”
Top Los Angeles police officials announced those community meetings to counter growing criticism about videoed brutality incidents involving LA police officers in the preceding months, that article noted.
On November 24, 2012 The Daily Beast posted an article with the headline: “In Los Angeles, Questions of Police Brutality Dog LAPD” reporting abuse incidents by officers of that department placed under federal oversight between 2001 and 2009 after repeated brutality and corruption scandals.
Over two months after that Daily Beast posting about LAPD brutality a fired LAPD officer unleashed a murderous rampage as revenge against his claimed unfair firing by the LAPD.
That former LAPD cop, military veteran Christopher Dorner, claimed his attack campaign was retaliation against retaliation LAPD personnel directed against him for his reporting a 2007 brutality incident he observed while on duty.
LAPD officials found Dorner’s brutality claim against a policewoman unfounded and fired him for filing false statements. The father of the alleged victim said his mentally ill son confirmed Dorner’s account.
LA police officials contend that man sustained facial injuries from falling into some bushes while resisting arrest by Dorner, not from the female officer’s kick.
Despite the recent record of brutality detailed in news coverage last fall, a New York Times article on the Dorner rampage inferred brutality by Los Angeles police – brutality that sparked two of America’s most destructive urban riots – was not a current problem.
The last sentence in the seventh paragraph of that February 7, 2013 New York Times article stated: “Mr. Dorner laid out grievances against a police department that he said remained riddled with racism and corruption, a reference to a chapter of the department’s history that, in the view of many people, was swept aside long ago.”
That ‘view’ of many people cited in the NY Times article obviously did not include the views of the dozens participating in an October 2012 demonstration against police brutality outside the LAPD headquarters.
On October 22, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “Downtown L.A. streets closed by protest at LAPD headquarters.”
Yes, the 1992 riots that rocked LA following the state court acquittal of the four LA police officers charged in the videoed savaging of Rodney King – a disturbance causing over $1-billion in damages and claiming 53 lives – arguably qualifies as long-ago.
But long-ago does not apply to incidents within the past year like the woman kicked in her groin by a female LAPD officer in July 2012 who died minutes later while hog-tied inside a patrol car.
That ‘view’ cited in the NY Times article is not shared by victims of the incidents triggering those LAPD brass community meetings like the skate boarder suckered punched by police, the nurse slammed to the ground by two officers who gave each other a fist-bump for their take-down and the handcuffed man shot by police.
While ‘many people’ certainly believe or want-to-believe LAPD brutality is long gone, perhaps by reforms implemented during that federal oversight, news media accounts pushing that view without balance of companion context comprise an element (albeit small) in the constant framing of police brutality as isolated incidents instead of long standing, systemic procedure by police across America.
At least that NY Times article referenced racism and brutality unlike many media entities that reported Dorner’s rampage without providing context beyond his crazed reaction to his firing.
The March 1968 Kerner Commission Report on sixties-era urban riots – the majority triggered by police abuse incidents including the deadly 1965 LA Watts Riots – criticized the news media for failing to “analyze and report adequately on racial matters” in America that included coverage of festering grievances like police brutality.
Compounding context-deficient coverage, news media reportage on police brutality rarely examines the central role played by prosecutors in perpetuating the problem.
The Los Angeles DA’s Office pushed one case protecting alleged police misconduct all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 2006 that court’s conservative majority issued a ruling experts said eroded protections for whistle-blowing public employees.
The case involved a veteran LA prosecutor who said supervisors retaliated against him arising from his exposing improprieties by a deputy during a drug investigation. Those supervisors pursued the drug prosecution despite those improprieties and then bashed the whistle-blower for providing the defense details of the improprieties as required by law.
That 11/12 Daily Beast article began with an anecdote about LA city prosecutors declining to charge officers caught lying about a December 2010 incident where a woman was beaten and tazed by four officers, one of whom videoed the incident.
Fired Officer Dorner alleged that his LAPD problems began in July 2007 when his training officer, a female, kicked a man during an arrest outside a hotel. Dorner claimed that training officer and their immediate supervisor compelled him to fudge his official report omitting the kicking, according to court findings.
LAPD officials found Dorner guilty of making false statements relying largely on an Internal Affairs investigation. The IA investigator interviewed the training officer and two hotel employees but neither Dorner nor the victim according to an October 2011 California state appellate court ruling that upheld a trial court ruling rejecting Dorner’s appeal of his 2009 LAPD firing.
LAPD officials, in their administrative proceeding, faulted Dorner for failing to immediately report the alleged kicking incident. Officials brushed aside Dorner’s stated fears of backlash for exposing that alleged misconduct and his having quickly reported that incident privately to two LAPD supervisors he knew whom he also had told about racial slurs directed at him during his police academy training.
Officials also claimed Dorner manufactured the brutality complaint to maliciously deflate an adverse performance evaluation he suspected he would receive from his training officer.
LAPD officials have initiated a reexamination of Dorner’s firing since the rampage began.
Dorner, in an online manifesto posted before his rampage, criticized the fact that officers involved in both the Rodney King and other brutality scandals were promoted not penalized.
An analysis of the Dorner incident prepared by Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher and Mike King, a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz reminded that brutality against non-whites remains a “structural function” of the LAPD.
“It is the commonness of excuses for police abuse/murder, the erasure of the victims as collateral damage that should be highlighted when trying to make sense of this broken, rogue, former Los Angeles cop,” Ciccariello-Maher and King wrote.
Photo – credit Wikipedia
A long-time journalist is suing the Los Angeles Police Department over the alleged manhandling he says he was subjected to while covering an Occupy protest in LA last year.
Reporter Calvin Milam of Los Angeles’ City News Service says police officers with the LAPD tackled him to the ground, restrained him in dangerously tight handcuffs and detained him for hours without charge, all while he was just doing his job as a journalist one evening in late 2011.
Milam has insisted he displayed his press credentials to the LAPD during an Occupy LA rally outside City Hall on November 30, 2011 immediately before he was brought down by the cops.
In the aftermath of the incident, police spokespersons described the scene by portraying Milam as drunk and disorderly during his arrest. The video footage that has surfaced seems to contradict that take, however, and also clearly shows that Milam was acting as a member of the media.
“At some point, the Los Angeles police officers, in full riot gear, began to restrict the egress of those exercising their First Amendment rights and blocked access to leave the premises,” the recently filed complaint reads.
Milam’s attorney, Mark Geragos, tells the Courthouse News Service that the only reason his client wasn’t prosecuted was because video was found “which completely puts lie to what the cops said.”
When Geragos first became aware of the footage in the weeks after the arrest, he told LA Weekly that the footage was “completely at odds” with the accounts offered orally from both the LAPD and the City Attorney’s Office.
“They patently lied about the whole thing. It’s clear to me. I was told the exact same thing. It’s fortunate there’s a video which shows what really happened,” he said last December. “They have now told you two things that are demonstrably false. One, that he didn’t show his press credential. And two, that he was drunk. This guy hasn’t touched a drink in 20 years.”
“It’s astonishing to see that video and then see what was alleged: that he didn’t identify himself, show press credentials and that he was resisting,” Geragos now tells Courthouse News.
LAPD officer Victor Johnson charged Mr. Milam with unlawful assembly during the Nov. 30 incident, but the charges were quickly dropped. He was one of three journalists arrested that night during an event that ended with around 300 being put into cuffs.
Patrick Meighan, a writer for the animated show Family Guy, was one of the hundreds of persons who was arrested during the non-violent protest last year. Recounting the experience in a personal blog post, Meighan wrote that LAPD’s actions that evening were “horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize” anyone who could catch a glimpse.
“It was super violent, it hurt really really bad and he was doing it on purpose,” is how he described his brutal arrest last year.
“What does it say about our country that nonviolent protesters are given the bottom of a police boot while those who steal hundreds of billions, do trillions worth of damage to our economy and shatter our social fabric for a generation are not only spared the zipcuffs but showered with rewards?”
The City of Los Angeles has yet to respond to Mr. Milam’s suit and litigation is “at a very early stage,” Courthouse News reports.
- LAPD refuses to release video of fatal encounter with mother (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- After violent in-custody death, family of Alesia Thomas sues LAPD for video (tv.msnbc.com)
The next time a tourist snaps a picture of the famous Hollywood sign, their photo won’t be the only item added to the annals. The LAPD considers photography a suspicious activity, and trying to take certain shots may add a page to your personal file.
A memo released last month by Police Chief Charlie Bucks re-categorizes certain behaviors — including photo shoots in public spots — to constitute suspicious activity, which is enough to have cops file a report, open an investigation and forward any further information about a suspect to the federal authorities — all over just an itchy shutter finger.
In an interdepartmental statement dispatched on August 16, Beck writes, “Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person” is enough of a red flag to have authorities file a suspicious activity report, or SAR. According to departmental policies, those SAR files are then sent into a Consolidated Crime and Analysis Database (CCAD), where they are occasionally added to a Crime Analysis Mapping System (CAMS) for further investigation. From there, intelligence can be stored in a Information Sharing Environment (ISE) Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Shared Space and accessed at fusion centers across the country, such as the LA area’s Joint Regional Intelligence Center, where other intel is interpreted, dissected and divulged by agencies like the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security.
In a 2010 evaluation conducted by the US Justice Department, the DoJ writes, “Ultimately, the ISE-SAR EE, through the use of the Shared Spaces concept, provides a solution for law enforcement agencies to share terrorism-related suspicious activity information, while continuing to maintain control of their data through a distributed model of information sharing.”(.pdf)
Further in the report, the Justice Department determined that “The FBI and DHS should continue to support the interface with the Shared Space environment to allow continue ease of sharing SAR data with all law enforcement agencies,” which now includes any reports written up for something as boring as a blurry snapshot. Under the LAPD’s 2008 guidelines, taking photographs or video footage “with no apparent esthetic value” could warrant filing a SAR, but the department has now broadened what they considered potential terroristic activity.
According to the latest LAPD memo, the office notes that the suspicious behavior included on their updated list is “generally protected by the First Amendment” and should not be reported in a SAR, but could be considered if the witness thinks the action in question is “reasonably indicative of criminal activity associated with terrorism,” an explanation that is as broad and open ended as the NDAA, the federal legislation signed last year that lets the government imprison Americans without charge over suspected ties with affiliates of al-Qaeda.
On the official website of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU writes, broadly speaking, “Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right… Unfortunately, there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply.”
University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone tells the Center for Investigative Reporting that just as any civilian can shoot photos in public spaces, though, surveillance from the authorities is allowed as well. “This would be constitutional under existing law, as long as the government is not doing this in a discriminatory manner,” Stone says. “There may be some constitutional limitations on the government’s use or preservation of such information, but at present, such limitations do not exist, except perhaps in truly egregious circumstances.”
In the days after the latest memo was made public, a backlash directed at the LAPD forced the police commission to establish a five-member civil oversight panel to decide on a set of guidelines for when SARs can be written. The Los Angeles Times reports that the panel unanimously approved an order that will continue to allow officers to write up SARs on any activity that can be interpreted, somehow, as a terroristic threat, however, and things don’t end there either.
Trying to take a picture isn’t the only action being elevated to the level of potential-terrorism in LA. In last month’s memo, Chief Bucks writes, “Demonstrating unusual interest in facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites beyond mere casual or professional (e.g., engineers) interest, such that a reasonable person would consider the activity suspicious.” Examples, he adds, include observations through binoculars, taking notes and attempting to measure distances.
Days after the LAPD memo was made public, Deputy Chief Michael Downing, commanding officer of the LAPD’s counter-terrorism unit, told members of the media, “In this region we have active terrorist plots, in this region, right now,” although authorities have not corroborated those claims with details for the public yet. Chief Downing later told the Times that he was unaware of any specific terrorism plot aimed at targeting the city, but was adamant that law enforcement should be on the ready to handle any reports.
The lengths at which they will go to in an effort to stay ahead of the game has others worried scared, though.
“We ought to be ashamed of ourselves,” National Lawyers Guild attorney Jim Lafferty tells the Times.
In an op-ed published this week in the Huffington Post, Yaman Salahi of the American Civil Liberties Union says the LAPD’s latest memo makes it so that cops can consider “Anyone snapping a photograph or taking notes in a public place [as] a potential threat to public safety.”
“This kind of information sharing might sound good in theory, but a recent study from George Washington University, co-authored by the LAPD’s very own Deputy Chief Michael Downing, the head of the LAPD’s Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, found that suspicious activity reporting has ‘flooded fusion centers, law enforcement, and other security entities with white noise.’ In practice, the profusion of SAR reports ‘complicates the intelligence process and distorts resource allocation and deployment decisions,’” Salahi writes. “The head of LAPD’s own counterterrorism bureau knows that low value SAR reports hurt counterterrorism efforts more than they help. So we should ask the LAPD to take the simple steps necessary to protect our free speech and privacy rights, and to stop harassing people engaged in perfectly lawful – and often, constitutionally protected – activities.”
Because the LAPD is now narrowing their eyes to focus in on suspicious activity at critical infrastructure sites, seemingly normal behavior anywhere — from power plants and theme parks to even a basketball game — can get you in trouble. In 2004, then Mayor Jim Hahn said, “Los Angeles’ critical infrastructure goes beyond power plants and water mains and includes facilities like Staples Center, which generates millions of dollars for our economy and is, thanks to the Lakers, an internationally-known symbol of Los Angeles.”
LA was awarded $3 million that year through the Urban Area Security Initiative Operation Archangel grant to protect its infrastructure, including the Staples Center, Disneyland and Hollywood Boulevard, and began their involvement in the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI) a few years later.
As RT wrote earlier this year as part of their ongoing investigation into the TrapWire surveillance system, the portal on the LAPD’s website that allows for civilians to contribute anonymous SARs is linked with an international intelligence database, as are surveillance cameras across the city. The iWatch reporting program has also been picked up in Washington, DC, where emails perpetrated to have been hacked from the servers of Strategic Forecasting last year suggest that the police department and closed-circuit cameras across the nation’s capital are tied to TrapWire as well. Intelligence collected in those instances are also fed to nationally-run fusion centers.
- LAPD Now Arresting Photographers (poorrichards-blog.blogspot.com)
- Photographers in Los Angeles considered terrorists under official LAPD policy (EndtheLie.com)
Hundreds of protesters in Los Angeles have taken out to the streets of Hollywood to rally against loopholes in legislation on corporate tax in the United States, Press TV reports.
The protesters, including unemployed workers, members of labor unions and “Occupy LA” activists, staged the rally to show their anger at a recent report showing that 249 of the country’s largest and most profitable corporations paid less than the US corporate tax rate.
The protesters said local communities are unable to afford vital public services such as health care and services provided by police officers, fire fighters due to the failure of these rich corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
Demonstrators occupied one of Hollywood’s busiest intersections, forcing police to order them to disperse. Protesters say the display was necessary to make sure people understand what is going on in the US.
Jacob Hay, one of the organizers of the rally, told Press TV that the protest is targeting companies such as shipping giant FedEx, which he says is one of the largest corporate tax dodgers in America.
“Over the last few years they paid less than one percent in federal taxes despite earning 5.2 billion (dollars),” Hay said.
Between 2008 and 2010, FedEx spent USD 46,000 a day lobbying in the Congress, which is about USD 14 million more than it paid in taxes, Hay added.
Protesters say FedEx is just one of the hundreds of corporations that are taking advantage of Americans.
A recent study, conducted by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, shows that 30 US companies are paying no federal taxes at all.
- OWS knocks on US billionaires’ doors (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- 29 Companies That Paid Millions For Lobbying (And Didn’t Pay Taxes) (forbes.com)