LAPD Officer: Dorner Case Proves It's Time For Police To Stop Investigating Police
The bad old days of the LAPD, the department behind the Rampart Scandal and the Rodney King beating, were supposed to be behind us. But lingering suspicion among Angelenos that the LAPD is still a fundamentally racist, corrupt organization has spilled out into the open in the wake of the Christopher Dorner case.
Now one LAPD officer, who himself worked in the department's Internal Affairs, says it's time to transform the way that cases like Dorner's are handled. Sunil Dutta is a current LAPD officer who wrote a piece in the Washington Post called "After Christopher Dorner’s rampage, how to build community trust in police."
Dutta said the time has come to hand over investigations of police officers over to civilians: "Relying on cops to police cops is neither efficient nor confidence-inspiring."
The Dorner case provides a good example of just how little faith the public has in the practice of police investigating their fellow officers, Dutta writes. Dorner accused his training officer Teresa Evans of kicking a suspect in the head, but the department's Board of Rights sided with Evans who denied it. He lost his job when the board ruled that he had made a false claim. Details of the case have been made public since Dorner's "manifesto" against the department surfaced, and the public has been very skeptical of the board's decision—and very sympathetic to Dorner's claims.
Dutta applauds Chief Charlie Beck for reinvestigating Dorner's case, but he says it doesn't go far enough to restore public faith in the department. Dutta proposes abolishing the Internal Affairs division where he once worked and outsourcing all investigations to a civilian body. He says that this should be done over the protests of some of his fellow officers:
Police have long resisted external oversight. Some of us say that those who aren’t in uniform do not understand the intricacies of law enforcement. Won’t civilian investigators be harsher toward officers — unsympathetic to the challenges faced by beat cops battling armed bad guys? These self-serving arguments perpetuate archaic policies. Outsourcing misconduct investigations to civilians would directly address community concerns about the “blue wall of silence.” Officers who fear retaliation for reporting misconduct would feel more comfortable working with an external agency. In this system, complaints such as Dorner’s about the vindictiveness of superiors would all but disappear.
Dutta says that increased transparency in the department could have helped resolve the Dorner case in other ways as well. He proposes that every police contact with the community should be recorded on video—many officers already do this to avoid false allegations of misconduct. He says, "If Dorner and his partner had had a cop-cam, his claim that his partner used excessive force might have been resolved the same day."Transparency advocates—and even Chief Beck—have also said that hearings like Dorner's should be required to be open to the public to restore public trust in the process.