The impact of Christopher Dorner on law enforcement

When Christopher Dorner died in a mountain cabin, it was the beginning of many enduring effects

Christopher Dorner — the name is now known far and wide. Disgruntled over his termination from the Los Angeles Police Department several years ago, he went on a rampage of revenge resulting in the senseless loss of lives.

The final outcome of one of the largest manhunts in the United States resulted in Dorner being holed up in an incendiary cabin where he died.

But what appeared to be the end of a series of horrific and tragic set of events has instead marked the beginning of the enduring impact of Christopher Dorner.

Los Angeles Police Public Information officers carry photos of suspect Christopher Dorner during a news conference at the LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013.
Los Angeles Police Public Information officers carry photos of suspect Christopher Dorner during a news conference at the LAPD headquarters in Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LAPD’s Worst Enemy

Dorner had been well trained by the police department where he was formerly employed, but he was no longer in favor of LAPD in any way, shape, or form. He’d reported that his training officer had allegedly kicked a man in the face and chest while being handcuffed. An investigation later determined his allegation was false. Dorner was fired.

Following his termination from the department and in subsequent years, he apparently had repressed anger over what he perceived to be an unjust act.

“You have misjudged a sleeping giant,” he said in his online manifesto.

Dorner vowed revenge in an explicit manifesto. He was determined to kill cops and their family members. He possessed instrumental law enforcement and military training, specific knowledge, and professional expertise that enabled him to attempt to do just that.

He became LAPD’s worst enemy, and LAPD was the immediate target of Dorner’s universe. He was intent on his purpose and focused on his mission. Dorner became an unimaginable nightmare not only for those in law enforcement but for innocent civilians. His actions captivated worldwide attention.

In the aftermath of the events that unfolded, there is profound loss of lives, everlasting grief, unrelenting emotional pain, enduring sadness and anger. At the same time, there is also contemplation, examination, investigation as well as ongoing cooperation and collaboration among law enforcement agencies.

There is also protest as well, with some positioning themselves outside LAPD headquarters to voice their criticism of police tactics and strategies. There are also those who have rallied to support the cause of Christopher Dorner on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Chief Charlie Beck has reiterated the need for transparency within the Los Angeles Police Department in what he maintains is an effort to reaffirm the bridges that have been built and the bonds that have been made.

His vow to reopen the investigation of Dorner’s termination is not to appease the community but for what he maintains is to better understand the role and meaning of transparency.

“We value fairness to everybody in every way,” Beck said.

Many Lasting Effects

Dorner’s actions impacted many lives in ways that will remain unforgettable — the grieving friends, colleagues, and family members of those who were the victims of his violence and suffered loss of life.

The permanent scars of the injured will always serve as reminders of the horrific realization that a former cop turned on those who were, at one time, joined with him in the bond of the police family. There is also the shared pain and trauma of communities, both near and far, that empathetically relate to those whose lives were forever impacted.

Cops put their lives on the line daily, and they are aware of the sacrifice they make from the moment they enter the profession.

However, that fact does not deflect from the reality that they, too, are human and experience the tragedy, the horror, the outrage, and the impact of loss of their friends, family, and colleagues in ways that sear their emotions and tug at their heartstrings no matter how stoic their professional demeanor or how ingrained is the professional training they receive.

The impact of Christopher Dorner’s actions points to the ongoing need for law enforcement agencies to have in place effective employment termination policies and protocols that must be defined with clarity and embraced with appropriate sensitivity. They must be continually reviewed and revised.

It is imperative that the right people are in place within the organization to personally and effectively interact with the individuals being terminated to ease the sudden — and possibly unexpected — disruption to their lives which can have reverberating financial and emotional repercussions.

Communication is a critical component involved in this process and must be fully engaged at all levels with forthrightness, consideration, and confidentiality.

The impact of the Dorner episode also points to the critical need for cooperative and collaborative relationship building, as demonstrated by the various law enforcement entities in the California region that worked together so effectively.

Though this endeavor has nationally increased in a post-9/11 era, the magnitude and scope of what could necessitate the utilization of diverse law enforcement agencies working conjointly for an event of any nature should never be underestimated or negated.

Ongoing dialogue, forecasting, and interagency active-shooter strategic planning and practice should be done routinely with all law enforcement agencies everywhere regardless of agency or jurisdiction size.

Importantly — yet tragically — the impact of the Dorner episode illustrates that law enforcement officers must be capable of confronting whatever comes their way at any point in time. Though they have always inherently known that, it was clearly and realistically brought home to them by Christopher Dorner. 

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