The Dorner Manifesto: Piercing the ‘blue line’ (Part I)
The manifesto of Christopher Dorner, an ex-cop seeking revenge on the Los Angeles Police Dept. for what he says was a wrongful dismissal, has gained much attention since he had been connected with several murders that targeted law enforcement and their families, and which led to a multi-agency manhunt.
The document has been described as “rage-filled,” “horrific and pathetic” and “rambling.”
There is, however, another interpretation of Dorner’s manifesto. For Mike Rothmiller, who is well acquainted with the LAPD’s murky past, the manifesto is an accurate description of the corruption that plagues the department.
“What Dorner said is spot on,” said Rothmiller, a former LAPD detective, who echoes Dorner’s assertion that the department “has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.”
Rothmiller was with the LAPD for 10 years, leaving in 1983. He worked in the Organized Crime Intelligence Division, or OCID, which at that time was running a J. Edgar Hoover-style operation under the supervision of Chief Daryl Gates. OCID spied on LA’s politicians, business leaders, celebrities and journalists, mostly to consolidate power for Gates by using compromising information to subdue his opponents. Rothmiller documented his experiences in a book he co-wrote with Ivan G. Goldman, called “L.A. Secret Police.”
In his manifesto, Dorner writes about how he reported his training officer, Sgt. Teresa Evans, to his superiors for allegedly kicking a mentally ill man, Christopher Gettler, in the face and chest. However, a Board of Rights hearing, or BOR, ended up determining that Dorner had falsely reported against Evans.
Dorner accuses the department of collusion, based on several members of the BOR being personal friends of Evans. Dorner wrote that he had objected to this on the grounds it was a conflict of interest, but his requests for their removal were denied.
Rothmiller said BORs are a “crap shoot” for an officer. During his tenure at the department, if there was a BOR of significance, he said, it was the chief who predetermined the outcome of the board’s findings. Board members, usually captains, would follow the chief’s lead in the matter so as to gain his favor.
“All of these people want to be promoted,” he said, “and you don’t get promoted to commander if you irritate the chief.”
As far as the accusations of police brutality are concerned, Rothmiller said he had seen “a lot of people beaten” by police officers in his time. Sometimes it occurred in the streets, sometimes in interview rooms and sometimes in the back seats of cars.
Rothmiller said he was taught by the department on how to beat up a suspect.
“You never want to leave marks,” he said. “They told us that from the get go. You go for the soft spots.”
Dorner said in his manifesto that the department had struck back against him for reporting on Sgt. Evans.
“I had broken their supposed ‘Blue Line,’” he wrote. “It is clear as day that the department retaliated toward me for reporting Evans for kicking Mr. Christopher Gettler.”
The LAPD’s “code of silence” hasn’t changed, said Rothmiller, and the worst thing a cop can do, is report negatively on other cops. If it were known a fellow officer had falsified an arrest report, had brutalized a suspect or put an innocent person in jail, it didn’t matter, police silence would be maintained.
“This rule of the street governed every facet of life as a police officer,” wrote Rothmiller and Goldman in “L.A. Secret Police.” “Beyond conscious thought, it developed into a reflex, like pulling your hand from a flame. There was no alternative action to consider. You backed up your fellow officers. Any other course was suicidal.”
Rothmiller explains that if word gets out that an officer can’t be trusted, that cop is labeled by his fellow officers, which is known as “getting a jacket.”
If the jacketed officer is on a lone patrol and requests backup, his fellow cops will still come to his aid, but they may “drive a little slower,” said Rothmiller.
“At that stage,” he said, “your life is in danger.”
One of the more startling revelations in Dorner’s manifesto is his description of a general indifference to human life within the police dept. He speaks of officers hitting suspects, pocketing cash taken from narcotics dealers and, in one instance, beating a transient “nearly to death.”
“I saw some of the most vile things humans can inflict on others as a police officer in Los Angeles,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the streets of LA. It was in the confounds of LAPD police stations and shops (cruisers). The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police.”
Dorner also wrote that officers often take photographs of dead civilians and then later, as a sort of game, compare photos to see who had the most disturbing image. He said cops would let a wounded suspect “bleed out” so as to brag to other officers about the case and would be anxious to receive overtime pay for future court appearances.
“I’ve heard many officers who state they see dead victims as ATVs, Waverunners, RVs and new clothes for their kids … because of the overtime they will accrue,” wrote Dorner.
In Rothmiller’s time, there were no cell phones, but the practice still occurred. Cops would often carry cameras with them, he said. Overtime pay was also an issue, said Rothmiller, though he didn’t speak of another cop letting a civilian “bleed out” for it. Instead, he said, officers would often conduct illegal searches shortly before their shift was over, hoping that finding some evidence of drugs in a person’s car would result in four hours worth of overtime.
A dominant accusation in Dorner’s manifesto, and one that has received the most media attention, is that of racism.
Dorner recounts an incident in his manifesto when, while riding in a van carrying at least eight officers, one of the cops referred to a black man as a nigger. According to Dorner, he confronted this cop, and another who defended the use of the slur. Pushing and shoving ensued, and the matter was later investigated.
“The sad thing about this incident was that when Detective Ty from internal affairs investigated this incident only (1) officer … in the van other than myself had statements consistent with what actually happened,” wrote Dorner. “The other six officers all stated they heard nothing and saw nothing.”
Rothmiller said that the racism within the LAPD has not changed since he was a detective. He bases this on accounts he gets from those still employed by the department, as well as those recently retired.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “They just exercise more caution now.”
On Feb. 9, LA Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement that he was reopening the investigation into Dorner’s termination in an attempt, “not to appease a murderer,” but to “reassure the public that their police department is transparent and fair in all the things we do.”
[To read part two of this article, click here.]