COPS: Heroes or Sociopaths?

Mainstream Media’s Portrait of a Reformed LAPD

by Rania Khalek


Rania Khalek

Since the manhunt for former police officer turned cop-killer Chris Dorner started, the establishment media has expressed shock and confusion at the level of animosity directed at the Los Angeles Police Department. Some have even equated this animosity with support for Dorner’s killing spree.

In a piece titled “Fugitive’s Rant Puts Focus on Evolving LAPD Legacy”, the Associated Press reports, that Dorner’s vendetta “comes at a time when it’s widely held that the police department has evolved well beyond the troubled racial legacy of Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson trial.” And what is the evidence for this apparent evolution? It’s that “Whites now make up roughly a third of the department and, while under federal authority, LAPD moved to require anti-gang and narcotics officers to disclose their finances and worked on new tools to track officer conduct.”

The AP should tell this to the family of 36-year-old Jose de la Trinidad, an unarmed Latino father of two who was shot dead in November by two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies.

The Sheriff’s department tried to cover it up, claiming that the officers opened fire because de la Trinidad reached for his waist to obtain what they believed was a gun, [Furtive movement!] unaware a nearby resident saw the entire thing from her bedroom window. She told investigators de la Trinidad was complying with police orders, his hands over his head and his back turned, when he was shot several times in the back, execution style. Police initially denied they ever interviewed the witness until they were grilled by the media and forced to admit they did. [The interview consisted largely of efforts to get the witness to change her account of the incident.]

Additionally, de la Trinidad’s autopsy report was released last week showing he was, indeed, shot in the back. His death leaves behind a wife, Rosanna, and two daughters ages 3 and 6. Three days after her husband was killed, Rosanna asked, “How am I supposed to explain to my daughters that their father was murdered by the police, the people who they are supposed to go to for protection.”

Perhaps Rosanna’s daughter’s will feel better knowing, as the AP so kindly reminds us, “Whites now make up roughly a third of the department” or, while under federal authority, LAPD moved to require anti-gang and narcotics officers to disclose their finances and worked on new tools to track officer conduct.”

Perhaps southern California law enforcement may be more racially diverse, but their culture of violence towards poor black and brown communities hasn’t changed, nor has the “code of silence” protecting trigger-happy officers who are rarely disciplined for their actions.

For example, nothing has happened to the eight LAPD officers who fired more than 90 rounds at unarmed 19-year-old Abdul Arian as he ran away following a car chase last year.  90 rounds! An LAPD internal probe deemed the 2010 police killing of Steven Eugene Washington, a 27-year-old unarmed autistic black man, justified as well. The LAPD officers who in 2011 shot and killed 25-year-old Reggie Doucet, naked and unarmed, were also cleared of any wrongdoing. The LAPD has yet to release the name of a man who officers shot and killed in October as he was handcuffed and lying on the ground face down.

In each of these cases, police claimed the suspect was reaching for his waistband (except in the case of naked Reggie Doucet who they say reached for the officer’s gun) and, like magic, their actions were justified.

Then there’s the LAPD’s recent scandal involving an elite gang unit promoting brutality and celebrating shootings. Last year, the Los Angles Times outed the existence of the “Jump Out Boys“, a secret group formed by seven LA Sheriff’s Department deputies and, according to Voxxi, “prides itself on aggressive policing, much of it in Latino communities, branding its members with matching tattoos of a red-eyed over-sized skull bearing the clique’s acronym and a bony hand holding a revolver.

Though the seven officers are being fired, Voxxi notes that it’s not “for any known criminal behavior but, apparently for tarnishing the department’s reputation and unethical conduct at a time when LAPD is struggling through a federal investigation.”

It’s no wonder poor communities and communities of color see the LAPD as a threat to be feared rather than the angelic department of do-gooders portrayed in the corporate media. Meanwhile, despite all the brutality, killing and cover-ups, the mainstream media can’t seem to understand why a so many people dislike the LAPD even as they’re being hunted by one of their own.

This confusion is illustrated best by the AP [Associated Press], which portrays a Facebook page as supportive of Dorner despite an explicit statement to the contrary:

On Friday, a community of online sympathizers formed, echoing complaints against police that linger in some communities. One Facebook page supporting Dorner, which had over 2,300 fans by Friday evening, said “this is not a page about supporting the killing of innocent people. It’s supporting fighting back against corrupt cops and bringing to light what they do.”

It is possible to both denounce Chris Dorner’s actions while also acknowledging the many truths in his critique of the LAPD. The establishment media doesn’t seem to get this. Instead, they see any agreement with Dorner’s assessment as tantamount to backing the murder of police officers. This reporting bias is not only foolish, but also indifferent to the people who have suffered at the hands of police violence.

It’s easy to attribute a shooting rampage to the lunacy of a deranged individual, which is largely correct. But, dismissing his motives ensures the systemic cultural factors that induced his cold violent desperate rampage will continue.

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3 Responses to COPS: Heroes or Sociopaths?

  1. admin says:

    by Mary Frances Prevost #
    Rania: You are spot on. In 2009 LAPD paid out a $12.85 million settlement to demonstrators who were assaulted during a peaceful assembly at a May Day march. The massive corruption scandal known as “Ramparts” netted a mere $75.5 million to hundreds of people wrongfully targetted and falsely accused. Last month was noteworthy for two gigantic cases against LAPD that ended in favor of plaintiffs. There was an $8.75 million excessive force verdict when a host of LAPD officers unloaded their guns into a DUI suspect. Then there was the $19.2 million payout to a kid who possessed a – get this – pellet gun. That’s just a microcosm of what occurs every day in LA (and in my hometown of San Diego).
    What’s even more prevalent is the subterfuge going on behind the scenes. For example, last year a San Diego grand jury released a scathing report identifying how SDPD Internal Affairs officers bullied members of the supposedly independent Citizens Review Advisory Board. The CRAB is supposed to be an independent body reviewing police brutality claims. IA officers bullied board members into exonnerating cops. See,
    Several of the IA cops who are part of the problem with CRAB have exonnerated cops who assaulted and falsely arrested my clients amidst mountains of evidence of misconduct. It seems that when some officers receive their badges, they leave ethics at the door. It also seems that those officers who leave their ethics at the door, are those most likely to succeed.
    Your quote, “It is possible to both denounce Chris Dorner’s actions while also acknowledging the many truths in his critique of the LAPD” is spot on.

    • admin says:

      by Rania Khalek #
      I had no idea San Diego police were so belligerent. Maybe it’s just me but they don’t seem to get that much attention in the news. I think one of the biggest problems is that we allow law enforcement agencies to police themselves and independent review boards are pointless unless they actually have some authority to discipline misconduct.
      It amazes me that cities are willing to keep on aggressive officers in spite if the amount of money they cost them in law suits.

  2. admin says:

    By Mary Frances Prevost #
    The power of the police unions is high. I have, however, seen a shift in public sentiment in recent years away from supporting cops, to challenging them. It’s a slow process. I think of the LA Times did an exposé on it, it would be meaningful. Another problem is the prosecutors and judges who support bad cops. Judges are elected, and they always run on tickets proclaiming, “Supported by Law Enforcement.” DA’s are scared to challenge dirty cops. It’s the scare tactics they use against the public.

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