Heather MacDonald | Dorner: Crazy to Everyone but the New York Times

A homicidal maniac blames racism in the Los Angeles Police Department for his killing rampage against cops and civilians and the New York Times responds, “You know, he just may have a point.” On Monday, as fired LAPD cop Christopher Dorner eluded capture for the sixth day after killing a Riverside Police Department officer, the daughter of his departmental defense attorney, and her fiancé, the Times wrapped up three days of observations about racism in the LAPD in response to Dorner’s charge, in a lunatic manifesto, that the department was endemically biased and brutal. (Dorner may have burned to death in a cabin in the San Bernadino mountains after a shootout that killed another law enforcement officer.)

The Times’s lead story in its national news section on Saturday was headlined: SHOOTING SUSPECT’S RACISM ALLEGATIONS RESOUND FOR SOME. Reporter Adam Nagourney opened his story with the LAPD’s denial of Dorner’s charges. “For the Los Angeles Police Department,” wrote Nagourney, Dorner’s accusations are “the words of a delusional man, detached from the reality of the huge improvements the force has undergone over the years.” Nagourney didn’t put the LAPD’s position in irony-signaling scare quotes, but the reader knew what was coming next: after the departmental spin, now the reality. “Yet for whatever changes the department has undergone since the days when it was notorious as an outpost of rampant racism and corruption,” continued Nagourney, “the accusations by the suspect—however disjointed and unhinged—have struck a chord. They are a reminder, many black leaders said, that some problems remain and, no less significant, that memories of abuses and mistreatment remain strong in many parts of this city.”

Nagourney makes no effort to document what those alleged “problems” are. In fact, he provides not one instance of police misconduct. Instead, he simply rounds up the usual suspects, always good for a quote about the long shadow of racism in the LAPD. “It would be naïve and misguided to say that racism in any institution is entirely a thing of the past,” UC Irvine law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky told the Times, after conceding that the department had changed. Nagourney also quotes certain members of the “community,” such as Hodari Sababu, a 56-year-old tour guide: “In your community, the police is there to protect and serve; in my community, the police are there to harass and to insult and to kill if they get a chance.” A 54-year-old bus driver explains: “Black people feel like we’ve been targets for so long, we’ve always felt that the L.A.P.D. was corrupt. So for us, it’s like, O.K., they pushed him over the edge.”


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