Saturday, February 16, 2013

Case Study: Good Cop, Rogue Cop?

Rogue Cop is a 1954 film noir based on a novel by William McGivern that co-starred Janet Leigh and George Raft. The film shows crooked veteran Police Detective Christopher Kelvaney (portrayed by actor Robert Taylor) who has no qualms about taking bribes and payoffs from criminals and his brother Eddie (played by Steve Forrest) as a younger member on force who is honest and uncorrupted. Another fictional Hollywood portrayal of a corrupt cop was Denzel Washington in Training Day. Some people have compared that role to that of discredited former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Rafael Perez who was part of the CRASH Unit (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums). Perez was also a major figure in LAPD's Rampart Scandal.
Cops don't usually turn rogue overnight. On most occasions there have been a series of events that made them angry at the force, at the general public, or at both. Usually these types of officers have a high number of excessive force or fellow staff complaints. They may also feel that there was excessive discipline made by their departments or adverse action taken after grievances were filed. They often have a history of tampering with evidence. These officers may misuse agency vehicles, break the speed limit when there are no hot calls, just because “they can”. They may have a history of sick leave abuse or may work a lot of overtime which can lead to burnout and short tempers. They may use steroids to get a “street edge” or other illegal substances. This type of officer often drinks heavily after work, and sometimes even while on the job. They may have domestic violence issues or other flare-ups of anger while off duty.
There have been good cops and bad cops ever since there were cops. A lot of officers isolate themselves because they feel outsiders don’t understand their lot, but I think a large amount of the general public trusts that most law enforcement do their jobs to the best of their abilities. They understand that cops do a job most people wouldn’t or couldn’t do. There is no question that there are times when all cops have done some wrong, most of the time it is not intentional, but mistakes made on false assumptions or just human error. There are other times; however, when some cops go rogue and feel they are “above the law”.
Even though he was not a cop for very long, the February, 2013, case of former LAPD Of­ficer Chris­toph­er Dorner shows the kind of damage that a criminal with a badge can do. Dorner was also a former Naval Reserve Officer highly skilled in the use of firearms and claimed he was just out to “clear his good name” after he was unfairly dismissed in 2009 when a LAPD disciplinary panel determined he lied. He accused his field training officer of kicking a mentally ill man during an arrest. His department found the complaint to be unfounded but there have been many documented cases of retaliation of employees in all fields of work after they filed complaints and grievances, so anything is possible. Much of the general public, and a lot of staff, view Internal Affairs investigations as self-serving and mostly designed to protect the interests of the administration. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck promised to review the case again to determine if Dorner was in fact treated unfairly.
There have been historical cases of officers that have been run out or pushed off agencies for a lot less. But any sympathy from some people, who've faced similar circumstances, was lost when Dorner decided to exact vengeance on people who had little or nothing to do with his case. He obviously externalized all of the blame over his dismissal when his manifesto threatened “un­con­ven­tion­al and asym­met­ric­al war­fare” against all po­lice. He went on a murderous rampage and, in cold blood, ambushed over a half dozen people killing four of them all of which had law enforcement ties. Dorner finally killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head in a cabin located in the vicinity of Big Bear, CA.
Cops from all over the country condemned Dorner, as they should, for killing innocent victims. But, the general public also saw on Facebook and other media posts that while cops were extremely outraged over Dorner’s murder of fellow law enforcement, far less cops expressed outrage about police firing on innocent civilians who were in the wrong type of vehicle. Some even spoke about it as being "collateral damage". The individuals fired upon did not appear to present an immediate threat, two of them were female, they were of a different race, and did not even remotely resemble the suspect. This type of reaction fuels the belief in many minority communities that all cops are “trigger happy”. A White man named David Perdue also claims that his vehicle was slammed and that he was fired at without just cause. Perdue also looks nothing like Dorner.
Undoubtedly those two Asian ladies, a mother-daughter team who were out delivering newspapers, and Perdue have lawyers lining up to take their case to sue and they will get paid well. But again, many Americans have publically and privately stated that they feel there is a double standard when it comes to police and the public. Many of them also feel cops always protect their own even if they have to lie about it. This may lead some people to mistakenly think that Dorner did what he had to do in order to bring light to injustices on the force. Some pro-Dorner people also blasted the "inhuman decision to burn him out” by use of force when police firing tear gas into the cabin. All tear gas canisters are flammable so it wasn't a decision to burn the cabin, just a decision to deploy tear gas to make him exit for officer safety purposes. Instead he decided to take his own life. Some even called Dorner a hero. This is a gross mischaracterization.
America has an ugly racist history and many injustices have happened to many people. Racism and injustice still exists today, but few would argue that there have been great strides in both areas over the last few decades. Chief Beck says he is reopening the Dorner case to assure the public, and especially the African-American community, that his department has left its racist past behind. All of the facts in this case will likely be reviewed as they should be for training and future improvements on police matters. The criminal justice system should always seek improvement to better assure the public that justice is impartial. But let there be no doubt, bad cops and rogue cops give the vast majority of good cops who proudly serve our communities while upholding the law and keeping us all safe, a bad name. The dead cops, and cops like them who converged on Dorner, are the real heroes and continue to be so every day.