While we look for a reason for what Christopher Dorner has done, and while we might try to ascribe his actions to his rejection by the LAPD, Christopher Dorner did not lose his badge because he was a victim of vindictive racist Police Officers, but because he was a bad cop who after only months of wearing a badge demonstrated incompetence and the character flaws that no police career can or should survive…a lack of honor and integrity.
The successful termination of Dorners’ short police career came about because of a group of officers and a process little known or understood outside of the law enforcement community known as FTEP, the Field Training and Evaluation Program.
I have had the honor of serving as a Police Officer for more than three decades, and half of that time I was involved in FTEP, first as a FTO (Field Training Officer) and then as a Sergeant and Lieutenant supervising squads of Training Officers and their inexperienced charges. The officers who take on the mantle of responsibility to take recruits just out of the Training Academy and mold them into fully functioning Patrol Officers are truly unsung heroes within the law enforcement profession. The knowledge, skills and temperament needed to successfully train and mentor new officers renders this an exceedingly demanding job and not one that all experienced officers are suited for. A good FTO not only must demonstrate their own competence as a Patrol Officer but must also be a teacher, friend, confidant and an older brother/sister, molding the raw police academy graduate into an officer who can make decisions ranging from when to write a citation to the taking of a human life.
The training period lasts for six months and each day the recruit is watched, advised, and evaluated for not simply knowledge but their ability to apply their skills to the real world of policing. They are corrected, advised, sometimes remedially trained, and every effort is made to bring their skills up to a level where they will perform adequately. Sometimes though, no amount of training or cajoling works. A single FTO cannot make the decision to end a trainee’s career. During the six month program, at least six different FTO’s will observe and evaluate the new officer and only after a series of FTO’s all come to the same conclusions, along with the Supervisors who are constantly advised and updated, are steps taken to either terminate the trainee or devise some sort of remedial training program as a last ditch effort to retain them.
Most often, however, it is the Trainees themselves who come to the difficult conclusion that police work simply is not for them. Many young men and women join Law Enforcement because they have an unrealistic, almost “comic book” view of policing. Some of the trainees are simply unprepared for what they are exposed to. Cruelty is an acid which can corrode the soul and having a fifty yard-line seat to the human condition can change many a person’s police career choice. Some, however, don’t recognize that this is just not the career for them Dorner was such a recruit.
Christopher Dorner did not graduate from his initial LAPD Academy Class in 2005. During his basic academy training, even though he was a reserve officer in the United States Navy and was awarded the “Navy Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon” and “Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal”, he managed to accidentally discharge his pistol and shoot himself in the hand. Because of his negligence, he was brought up on charges by the department and according to LAPD Internal disciplinary records, was suspended for two days. His wound, because it was suffered “in the line of duty” resulted in him being allowed to finish his Academy training, and he graduated in February of 2006. He then entered the Field Training Program of the LAPD. Once a police trainee graduates from the six month LAPD Academy, the next phase of training begins, Field Training or the FTO Program as it is known, lasts for six months. The trainee is assigned six different FTO’s, each for a month and during that time period, Dorner was evaluated every day on a wide array of knowledge and skills such as “Officer Safety”, “Search and Seizure”, and “Conflict Resolution”. Once again, his training was cut short though because after just a few months, he was called into Active Duty status with the Navy, where he was deployed to Bahrain for 13 months. He returned in July of 2007 and as he had not completed his Field Training, he was assigned back to the FTO program. Within a short period of time, he was receiving poor evaluations and remedial training, but instead of accepting personal responsibility and being self-accountable, he blamed his training officers and the department.
The final straw involved his handling of a complaint about a man refusing to leave a hotel. Finding the mentally ill man on a bench outside of the hotel, Dorner escalated the incident resulting in his FTO having to use her Taser on the subject. Weeks later, after receiving a poor evaluation report from his FTO, he claimed that she kicked the man in the head during the arrest. The internal investigation turned up several uninvolved witnesses whose testimony proved Dorner was lying. That was the last straw for the LAPD who fired him for being “untruthful” during the investigation.
I applaud the LAPD for terminating Christopher Dorner, a difficult course of action. For even though he continually demonstrated that he lacked the skills and temperament to perform the duties of a Police Officer, often, the easier and more “politically correct” action is to take no action. LAPD took a stand, and after Departmental hearings and appeals, all of which upheld the decision to terminate Dorner, he executed his mad retribution. He took the lives of Police Officers, the life of the innocent daughter of a retired cop who had worked as an advocate for Dorner himself, and her companion. He deprived parents of their children and children of their parents because he believed himself to be a “victim” while in fact he was a simply too inept to be a cop and too self absorbed to accept it.
As people who live in what we refer to, somewhat hopefully, as a civilized society, when we witness something as horrific as a school shooting or this incident, we by nature look to assign blame. It is simply part of our humanness and it eases our collective conscience as we struggle to understand how it could possibly happen. There is blame here but it does not belong to the LAPD who did exactly what they should have done; they realized they had a bad cop working for them, they fired him. The blame belongs squarely on the shoulders of the one man who could have prevented the carnage, destruction and heartbreak felt by so many… Christopher Dorner.
Randy Sutton is a retired Lieutenant with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. He is one of the most highly decorated police officers in the department with multiple Life Saving Awards and awards for Valor and Community Service. He is the Author of three books, TRUE BLUE POLICE STORIES BY THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED THEM, A COP’S LIFE, and TRUE BLUE TO PROTECT AND SERVE. He conducts seminars on the topic of ‘’POLICING WITH HONOR” and can be contacted at www.policingwithhonor.com.
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