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Why is Christopher Dorner's Manifesto so Important?

Updated on April 7, 2013
The ever-smiling image of former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner. Apparently the media just couldn't find any crazy photos of him on-par with James Holmes.
The ever-smiling image of former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner. Apparently the media just couldn't find any crazy photos of him on-par with James Holmes.

“I was told by my mother that sometimes bad things happen to good people. I refuse to believe that.” Christopher Dorner wrote this line in his 6,000-word manifesto in reference to racism and general prejudice he's seen and felt in the LAPD. In Dorner's case, I think the worst thing that happened to him was the deadly change in mindset. An otherwise good man, he fell from the position of positive do-gooder to dangerous sociopath. His emotionally overwrought and grammatically flawed (yet still impressive) writing exposes an LAPD built on injustice, promoting officers who have wronged LA's citizens more than the citizens have wronged the city.

The case Dorner focuses on most of all is of a particular female officer who brutally kicked a schizophrenic man who had been arrested for a minor infraction. Instead of the officer meeting with appropriate repercussions for her actions (her nickname around the station was apparently Chupacabra due to other use of force incidents), she was promoted to Sergeant. It's a case Dorner states he attempted to set right by getting the woman terminated, but was instead terminated himself. Though all names mentioned are censored in the manifesto, with the exception of Quan's father, Chief Beck, and various Presidents and celebrities, it sounds like the “Chupacabra” and the male officer Dorner mentions she was dating could be victims Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence.

Dorner mentions instances of racism within the department and in his childhood, discussing an incident that occurred when an officer used the word “nigger” in a conversation in a cruiser among a group of officers. In response to the use of the word, which he understandably despised, Dorner attempted to choke the man to death before being restrained by the accompanying officers. This instance, along with a time when he was called that same name as a kid and responded with violence, reveals a man who was never raised to deal with bad situations or injustice without using violence. This, along with his black and white views of people's morality—labeling people as simply good or bad—were part of what culminated in the events that took place this past week. And though I feel Dorner's intentions were noble, his distorted perception of death being a necessary course of action was where he was stuck in a moral conundrum, and has seemed to have launched one within the public's reactions. Many don't know whether to see Dorner as a hero or a monster. Could he be both?

If what Dorner writes about the LAPD is true, it displays a system that needs to be changed from the top down, with careless and corrupt senior supervisors perpetuating the problem just as much as the officers at the bottom. Racism and other injustices on the part of the police department are certainly expressed in this manifesto, and any attempts to do right and correct these problems is met with ignorance.

The media only portrays Dorner as a simple cop killing madman, and while nobody involved deserved to be killed, there's a sincerity and desperation in Dorner that in reality was developed largely due to the attitude of the very department we're supposed to sympathize with. Every excerpt from his manifesto that appears in major newspapers and TV stations is a simple threat or celebrity (or Presidential) endorsement or condemnation. Dorner only discusses celebrities in the second half of his 20-page diatribe (I hate to even call it that as it really is a lot more). You'll notice just about every experience mentioned with the LAPD specifically discusses how he tried his best to assert a diplomatic solution to corruption.

The Big Bear Lake cabin fire where Dorner was killed. The charred remains found inside have been confirmed as his.
The Big Bear Lake cabin fire where Dorner was killed. The charred remains found inside have been confirmed as his.

I don't agree that killing cops was the right move. I don't care how bad they were, as long as they weren't killing people and could somehow have been stopped otherwise, they didn't deserve death. Termination and public scrutiny for their misdeeds, sure, but not the loss of the right to live. That said, the rampage certainly got people, including myself, to examine the corruption of the LAPD, and as a Chicagoan I can't say from experience that the Chicago PD is any better or worse, thankfully never having had an encounter, but from what I've heard it isn't any less corrupt and unethical.

What we have here is a perceived martyr for many, a man going down in flames, literally, to push for change when all other avenues were extinguished. His killing those officers is the single act that prevents him from being a hero, but the real tragedy of this may be that people wouldn't have heard this man's call for a law enforcement paradigm shift otherwise. As Dorner beautifully puts it in his manifesto regarding the LAPD, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. How ironic that you utilize a fixed glass structure as your command HQ.” As any police department would do, it has completely ignored the accusations laid out within the manifesto as lies. Pretty elaborate lies for someone who hasn't proven himself in the past to be a fiction writer.

Dorner wanted to push for tougher gun control laws, as he purposefully bought the same high-powered weapons used in the Sandy Hook Elementary and the Portland mall shootings, stating that nobody should be able to get hold of those guns as easily as he did. Almost makes me think of a conspiracy theory that the government fabricated this manifesto in an attempt for a louder call for gun control, but I do believe this thing screams genuine in every aspect, imperfect grammar and all. I just wish the manifesto (or perhaps an intelligent blog) could have been enough to raise Dorner above the rest while still gaining attention about the issue. Hell, he could have written a book if he refocused the same discipline he had when preparing for the actions he took.

If it's one thing that Dorner did, it was garner attention to a series of problems that still unfortunately need to be addressed: police corruption, racism, and the ability to so easily purchase high-powered rifles without a background or psych check. The case for which he was fired was even reopened, though much to the spite of the LAPD. He's not a martyr, but Chris Dorner will forever go down as a man who is a key figure in ending what should have ended long ago. His violence can be viewed as a product of the very injustice he fought against, like Frankenstein's monster trying to kill Frankenstein. Though the media has worked hard to keep everybody in the dark as to his true and noble cause, the truth he spoke cannot be entirely silenced for those willing to listen.


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    • Ben Graves profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Graves 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      You said it, Genna East. Even Dorner states in his manifesto (which truly was narcissistic in most aspects) that he essentially died while in law enforcement due to all he'd seen and been through in the department. While I see this as a self-serving excuse for going on a rampage, it does illustrate the flaws in the way officers handle themselves and each other in that department. It sounds like a lot of these officers need some psychiatric attention that they just aren't getting, and which isn't seen as necessary.

      As with Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and all of those other perpetrators of mass shootings in the past, I think Christopher Dorner proves that mental health needs to be addressed over gun control laws.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very thoughtful article, Ben.

      I used to live in LA years ago. Dorner’s statement in his rambling, narcissistic manifesto about the LAPD being worse than what it was 10 years ago is untrue. It is certainly far from perfect, but there have been a number of hard-won improvements in that organization over the past several years. Dorner fought tooth and nail to stay with the LAPD (he filed more than one appeal over their decision to fire him), and to be reinstated.

      The fact that LAPD officers who were guarding a manifesto target in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance and opened fire on a truck they mistakenly believe to be Dorner's is unconscionable. One woman was shot in the back and her daughter has a couple of stitches in her finger due to shattered glass. The LAPD cops responsible will be brought up on charges. The woman’s attorney will undoubtedly file a lawsuit against the LAPD on her behalf (and well he should), and she will be paid handsomely.

      The irony is that everything that was, and still is to a lesser extent, wrong with the LAPD quite obviously existed in Dorner, himself.

    • Ben Graves profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Graves 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      I've heard plenty of stories of cops being prejudiced toward members of their own, which is apparently what happened in his case and what he witnessed. I think what says a lot about the current state of law enforcement is the incident where two women delivering newspapers were shot by the LAPD because they were simply driving a truck similar to Dorner's. I think Dorner, if he had been raised to believe that violence was not the solution, would have been a great man. His manifesto speaks volumes about his otherwise intelligent conclusions about the current state of the LAPD. The corruption and discrimination of cops is a problem here in Chicago as well.

    • Patriot Quest profile image

      Wayne Joel Bushong 

      5 years ago from America

      You hit it on the head when you said "if we can believe Dorner" We CANT believe him! He was a failed idiot! Lots of people get fired from jobs and move on! He had the law on his side if he was truly wronged in the job place.........even more so because of the color of his skin! His life on this earth has been terminated because he was a violent individual who needed to be exterminated!


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