What Led Chris Dorner to Go Off the Edge: Workplace Abuse, Racism, and Unfair Firing
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This article first appeared at Not Safe for Work Corporation.
In the days after his lethal rebellion and violent death, Christopher Dorner has become many things to many different people: a one-man Alamo hero who died fighting the police state; a crazy black man who started murdering cops because that’s what crazy black men do; or a symbol of government oppression and the militarization of America’s police forces. For some conspiracy theorists, Dorner even became a Manchurian candidate in an elaborate Big Brother plot to sow chaos and fear, so that Government Marxists could fill America’s skies with armed drones, assassinating gun-owners and freedom-lovers at will.
But all this focus on Dorner’s spectacular ending has obscured the real story about what sent Chris Dorner over the edge: workplace abuse, racial discrimination, and a legitimate claim of wrongful termination. In a nation where workers have fewer legal protections than workers in many developing nations, low-level employees like Dorner have few rights, little power and almost nowhere to turn. Ever since the Reagan Revolution of the 80s, popular culture has neglected labor problems in favor of violent epic fantasies, even though more and more Americans suffered worsening labor conditions in their own lives, privately and alone. Wrongful termination and workplace discrimination are devastating problems for each and every victim, yet collectively we’re infinitely more worried about police state fascism and getting assassinated by armed drones, thanks to media and pop culture conditioning. Labor and workplace problems are considered boring, even embarrassing.
Ever since “going postal” massacres first appeared in the public sector, in US post offices in the mid-1980s, they have tended to follow a familiar script. The murderer “snaps” for no apparent reason; official culture blames it all on Hollywood or guns, never explaining why these workplace massacres only appeared in the mid-late 80s; and later, as it turns out, there were a lot of reasons for the gunman to snap. If you profile the workplace that created the murderer, rather profiling the murderer’s psychology, you will often find a pattern of shocking workplace abuse and of top-down mistreatment of employees, culminating in the “going postal” rampage. The consequent killing spree will target supervisors, fellow employees, and anyone associated with the institution that the abused employee blames for having crushed him (or her).
The LAPD is a textbook example of one of the most abusive public sector employers in America today — and this context, along with the details of Dorner’s firing and his appeals, are the real missing pieces in the puzzle.
Noted civil rights attorney Dan Stormer, who has sued the LAPD on numerous occasions over wrongful terminations, discrimination and civil rights abuses, tells me, “Dorner’s case looks like a garden variety example of these types of cases.”
Dorner’s problems began with race, and escalated to his firing over his allegations against a fellow police officer of kicking a suspect in the face. “They don’t like it when you report abuse,” Stormer says. “If you complain, they punish you.”
Just over a decade ago, 109 serving and former LAPD officers filed a class action lawsuit accusing the police department of retaliating against whistleblowers and employees who dared to report police abuse.
An article in the LA Times headlined “More Than 60 Officers Join Lawsuit Against LAPD”, dated October 10, 2000, begins:
More than 60 current and former officers are joining a class-action lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department that alleges retaliation against whistle-blowers, bringing the total number of plaintiffs to more than 100, an attorney said Monday.
The original lawsuit, filed Aug. 24 in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of 41 former and current employees, most of them officers, claims that the LAPD has a culture that enforces a "code of silence" that leads to a pattern of discrimination, harassment and retaliation against those who report misconduct by other officers.