By Pablo Aceves
Christopher Dorner, ex-military man, ex decorated LAPD-also called disgruntled, a troublemaker and a “mass murderer” is dead. There has been a burned out cabin in Big Bear (a forest fire, in fact), and a shootout with the police. We have all been told the details of this “murder spree” starting with the alleged killings of a high police official’s daughter and her fiancé on February 3, confrontations with police in Corona and Riverside, and his firing that led up to it. However, more important than the timeline is the response by the LAPD and the state structure to Dorner and his revelations in his so-called “manifesto”.
Dorner is not unique and shows the crisis of the System. In his document, Dorner talks about encountering racism at an early age, struggling against it, and being a “behavior problem”, which is basically what the system labels Black and Brown people who don’t let themselves be walked all over and demeaned. He details his life living in white neighborhoods, his “distinguished service” in the military, and his time in the LAPD when he encountered racism. He relates just what the attitudes of the White Power Structure is in the LAPD’s rituals of violence and racism (cadets at the academy singing Nazi songs, fellow officers using the “N” word directly in front of him and telling him they would use it any time they want to, etc.). Dorner was fired because, according to him, he denounced brutality in his department. In his “Last Resort” document, he tells about his “name” being taken away and his attempts to get it back. Additionally, he relates about the paramilitary and anti-human culture within the LAPD and the reasons as to why it exists. What is remarkable and telling is that someone who was in the system, who fought for it both abroad and in the current political borders of the “United States”, has “turned” on and exposed his former “masters.”
It is probably true that someone like Dorner, a decorated ex-military person, who despite his issues had a place in the system and was for years rewarded well for what he did actually believed in the transparency and fairness of this system until he experienced its true face. He reported a fellow officer for kicking a suspect, thinking that his good deed would be rewarded. He saw firsthand of what he was really a part. He learned that the Police “protect and serve” their own and each other. He states, “The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse.” Many of us know this, we have said it for years and have told people that the police exist to protect and serve White Power and Private Property. Now one of their “own” has said the same thing and given evidence of this. He has also exposed the true paramilitary, racist, Nazi nature of the police academy and the socialization that exists before people leave the academy. If anyone thinks this is unique to the Los Angeles Police Department, they have only to look at how Raza and Africans are treated in all major cities, and the treatment they receive at the hands of their local police, migra, ICE and other repressive entities.
But in truth, Dorner’s revelations are less surprising for what they say than from who they come from. The fact that someone so deep into the “police/military” culture was able to find this much clarity and make such a complete break with the system he was beholden to his entire adult life is what amazes. This is not someone who started out an activist and joined the police or someone who thought there was something fundamentally wrong with law enforcement from the outset. He was someone who had not connected the racism he saw growing up as part of the police apparatus. He may have thought he could “do some good” and change things, which should sound very familiar to Raza and Africans. How many of us have not had a cousin, brother, sister, or friend who wants to become a Border Patrol, cop, FBI agent, or a probation/parole officer or C/O in the prisons because:
a) They buy into this capitalist/colonial society’s definition of “right and wrong, crime punishment, and public safety” and never connect it to the racism they grew up with;
b) They see the problems and racism but think they can “change things from the inside” and be a “different kind of cop?”
Dorner is the answer to all their questions. For many his journey may not show conclusively that this society’s definition of “right and wrong” has been corrupted, but it should show those who think they can “change things from within” that there is little room for that. What happened to Dorner more says that the system will crush anyone who tries to bring any hint of humanity to their repressive apparatus. In fact, the police apparatus in the US was not going to let him live knowing the revelations he was capable of making on top of those already made. It had less to do with who he had allegedly killed and more to do with what he had said and would say. He broke their code of silence and had done it in such a way as to give credibility to those of us who have been saying the same things for decades.
It is particularly interesting what he says about Raza officers: “Those Hispanic officers who victimize their own ethnicity because they are new immigrants to this country and are unaware of their civil rights. You call them wetbacks to their face and demean them in front of fellow officers of different ethnicities so that you will receive some sort of acceptance from your colleagues. I am not impressed. Most likely, your parents or grandparents were immigrants at one time but you have forgotten that…” He hits the nail on the head. He also accurately singles out African police and White Police who act out their inadequacy and their feelings of superiority. One very telling area he touches on is “lesbian” officers who he defines as “misandrist (not feminism).” This exemplifies clarity that also exposes the opportunism of the traditional Democratic Party and petty bourgeoisie “women’s organizations” that see in and of itself as progressive more women in places of authority while not calling into question the perpetuation of this system. He also confirms the true police attitude towards human life in our barrios when people are told not to call ambulances when they have shot someone, saying that cops look at the bled-out dead as bonuses and overtime. Again, this is what many of us have seen every day, and Dorner saw this and yes, crossed the blue line to tell everyone else.
Most telling and chilling (at least it should be for those in the LAPD he is talking about) is this statement: “Those of you who ‘go along to get along’ have no backbone and destroy the foundation of courage. You are the enablers of those who are guilty of misconduct.” He is really talking to anyone in those positions. We know that there are those in police departments and in prisons that see this going on every day and know it is wrong. They do not act because they are too tied to the system and the benefits it gives them. Dorner is right: this is an outrage.
What is interesting about this entire episode is that when confronted with someone who had nothing to lose, was prepared to attack White Power as it has attacked people and civilian populations all over the world, the rules of democratic fair play immediately went by the wayside. Never mind being innocent until proven guilty of killings or even of telling someone to freeze or get out of their vehicle if the officers thought they had encountered Dorner. The fact that cops indiscriminately shot one of those vehicles, a different-colored truck driven by Emma Hernandez, 71, and Margie Carranza, 47, because it “looked like it was driven by Dorner” shows that they were desperate that no more information of corruption get out. Dorner was less of a threat to California than the police running around and shooting at anyone who they thought looked like him, making anyone of color a target and making African males a special target. There were even shirts that said “don’t shoot I’m not Christopher Dorner.”
It is also telling that he was targeted as a dangerous mass murderer by the media. This hysteria ignored the fact that he was suspected, not convicted of any killings. There is nothing new here. The colonial prisons are full of Raza and Africans for whom the police and other repressive bodies have acted as judge and jury. For those who do not make it to trial but are shot or die in their jail cells under mysterious circumstances they also have acted as executioners. However, this mislabel was unmasked by the media calling him a mass murderer when, in fact, in the mass murderer category, there are others who have killed more people and under much more heinous circumstances. Examples include white Adam Lanza who shot up and killed 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut school for no apparent reason; Jared Lee Loughner who killed seven, a congresswoman included, and wounded 12 in Arizona; and then there is Shawna Forde who busted into a home in Arizona and killed a Mexicano and his 9 year old daughter. The examples of white shooters and killers abound, but hardly do we hear of them being called mass murderers. However, this angry black man, the stereotype that this system has thrived on since the days of slavery and lynching had his photo plastered all over with warning that he would to kill anyone in his way. He clearly stated who his targets were.
They put everyone they could into the hunt. They burned down half a forest to get him, they brought out the cannons, and precisely this show of inordinate force shows the weakness of the Empire’s position. If Dorner was truly crazy and if there was no truth to his allegations, why then the massive manhunt? Why the internal panic? Why disregard jurisprudence? It would seem that it is because in a situation where more and more Raza and Africans are questioning the physical and economic brutality our community is experiencing, Dorner was confirmation that it was not a figment of anyone’s imagination. He had unlocked the code, and this system would do anything to find the key, get it from him, lock it up again, and hope that their imposed amnesia would set in quickly.
Without condoning indiscriminate killing, Dorner did something else: it took away the excuse of all the Uncle Toms and Tio Tacos who suck up to the White Power structure on a daily basis with their “there’s nothing anyone can do” and ”it’s no use” excuses. His death demonstrates something else that cannot be denied – there cannot be real change without organization. This is not to denigrate or dismiss his bravery or the clarity of many of his statements. However, it shows that we can be as heroic as we want but real revolutionary change will not come through individual acts. Organization and the building of consciousness among the masses of our and other oppressed people cannot be substituted by the action of one or a few people, no matter how heroic. If we want real change we must be disciplined, redouble our efforts, study and struggle day in and day out. There is no excuse.