Police Commission questions why Christopher Dorner was ever hired by LAPD

Christopher Dorner and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton


Murder suspect and former LAPD officer Christopher Jordan Dorner in an image with then-LAPD Chief Bill Bratton, in the August 2006 issue of the department's magazine BEAT.

Ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner's rampage across Southern California prompted a good deal of soul searching in the department's ranks. Thus far, most attention has focused on whether Dorner's firing by the LAPD — Dorner's stated reason for his alleged murders — was fair.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved a duo of reports finding that Dorner's firing was in accordance with department rules and, overall, just.

"Christopher Dorner was his own worst enemy," said Gerald Chaleff, LAPD's special assistant for constitutional policing. Chaleff said Dorner undermined his own career when he allegedly made a false complaint against a superior officer, shattering his credibility in the eyes of the department.

Related: Full coverage of LAPD manhunt for alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner

"If that had not occurred," Chaleff said, "he might, unfortunately, be a member of the force today."

Another report, expected out this summer, will look at the department's disciplinary system overall.

But Police Commissioner Rafael Bernardino had an entirely different question. 

"How did this person become a police officer?" Bernardino asked. "He had a number of problems all the way through, at the academy, displays of certain emotional instability. My concern is that I don't want to see another guy like this get through."

Chaleff told the commission that the city's personnel department is the agency currently responsible for evaluating potential officers (including background checks and psychological fitness), and passes a list of names to the chief of police.

"It's a process that the department doensn't have total control over," Chaleff said.

Chaleff said he reviewed all of Dorner's background check that was available to him.

"Which raised some issues, but he was on the qualified list," Chaleff said. "He did have injuries and there were some personality issues, but there was nothing he did at the academy that would rise to the level of terminating him." 

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he's been in discussions with the city council and Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti about potentially amending the hiring process. 

"We try to select the very best people we can, we train them as best we can, we hold them to a very strict standard," Beck said. "I have had a lot of very fine cops who've had problems in their past, just as many of you have. You learn from them, you move forward. He [Dorner] didn't do that."

Commissioner John Mack quizzed Chaleff on the details of the report, which, he said, should help quiet support for Dorner's allegations that the LAPD fired him because of his race. 

"There were some people out in this city and community who believed it," Mack said. "I think it's important that we have this kind of transparency, so that the majority of people understand. I'm not so naive as to think everyone's going to believe it."

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