Fugitive’s rant puts focus on evolving LAPD legacy

LOS ANGELES – Fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner’s claim in an online “manifesto” that his career was undone by racist colleagues conspiring against him 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.

Dorner, who is suspected in a string of vengeance killings, has depicted himself as a black man wronged, whose badge was unjustly taken in 2008 after he lodged a complaint against a white female supervisor.

“It is clear as day that the department retaliated toward me,” Dorner said in online writings authorities have attributed to him. Racism and officer abuses, he argued, have not improved at LAPD since the King beating but have “gotten worse.”

Dorner’s problems at the LAPD, which ended with his dismissal, played out without public notice more than four years ago, as the department gradually emerged from federal oversight following a corruption scandal. At the time, the officer ranks were growing more diverse and then-Chief William Bratton was working hard to mend relations with long-skeptical minorities.

“This is no longer your father’s LAPD,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared in 2009, after the federal clampdown was ended.

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice said the department should review the Dorner case and his claims, while stressing that she is not defending the suspect in any way and is shocked by the attacks.

She said the 10,000-member force headquartered in a glass-walled high-rise in downtown Los Angeles has entered a new era.

“The open racism of the days before is gone,” said Rice, who closely tracks racial issues inside the department and has faced off against the LAPD in court. “The overall culture has improved enormously.”

Police say Dorner shot and killed a couple in a parking garage last weekend in Irvine, the beginning of a rampage he said was retribution for his mistreatment at LAPD. A search for him continued Saturday, centered on the mountain town of Big Bear Lake, where his burned-out pickup truck was found Thursday.