The unprecedented manhunt for cop-killer Christopher Dorner has important–and brutal–lessons to teach.
First, above everyone else, police look out for each other.
Robert Daley bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D. A police reporter for the New York Times, he served for one year as a deputy police commissioner.
“The murderers of all patrolmen almost invariably were identified at once and caught soon after,” wrote Daley. “Organized crime was too smart to get involved in the type of investigation that followed a cop killing.
“A great many solvable crimes in the city were never solved, because not enough men were assigned to the case, or because those assigned were lazy or hardly cared or got sidetracked.
“But when a cop got killed, no other cop got sidetracked. Detectives worked on the case night and day….Cops were all ears as far as murdered patrolmen were concerned; they heard details all over the city…and fed all this into the detectives who had the case.
“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men. But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”
Although Dorner targeted only local police officers, the Federal Government quickly poured resources into the manhunt. These included the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and even unmanned military drones.
Second, don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.
The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families. A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards. And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.
And those details stayed in place long after Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.
That was a lot of manpower and a lot of money being expended.
But if your bullying neighbor threatens to kill you, don’t expect the police to send a guard detail over. They’ll claim: ”We can’t do anything until the guy does something. If he does, give us a call.”
And if your loved one is murdered, don’t expect the mayor’s office to offer a $1 million reward or the military to deploy drones to find the killer.
Third, the more status and wealth you command, the more likely the police are to address your complaint or solve your case.
Police claim to enforce the law impartially, “without fear or favor.” But that happens only in TV crime shows.
If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.
But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, your case will almost certainly wind up in “the round file” (a wastebasket).
And it works the other way, too. Anthony Bouza, former chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, notes in his 1990 book, The Police Mystique: “When cops deal with the poor (blacks, Hispanics, the homeless and the street people) the rubber of power meets the road of abuse.”
Fourth, don’t expect your police department to operate with the vigor or efficiency of TV police agencies.
“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”
Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett
But in San Jose–a city close to bankruptcy–residents can’t get police to respond to break-ins because the police department is dangerously understaffed.
And neighbors in Oakland, fed up with a slow police response, or none at all, are banding together to protect their properties by hiring private security officers.
In San Francisco, if you’re assaulted and can’t give police “a named suspect,” they won’t assign the case. As far as they’re concerned, the solvability rate is too low.
Fifth, the result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.
Surveys reveal that those who don’t need to call the police have a higher opinion of their integrity and efficiency than those who are the victims of crime. Among those reasons:
- Many police departments lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
- Files often get lost or accidentally destroyed.
- Some officers are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
- Police are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other officers or other police departments–and thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.
- Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest. The perpetrator may cop to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence–or none at all. Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.
But it is the witnessing of blatant inequities and hypocrisies such as those displayed in the Christopher Dorner manhunt that most damages public support for police at all levels.
When citizens believe police care only about themselves, and lack the ability–or even the will–to protect citizens or avenge their victimization by arresting the perpetrators, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.
Police depend on citizens for more than crime tips. They depend upon them to support hiring more cops and buying state-of-the-art police equipment. When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding.
The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens looked only to themselves for protection.