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Crime & Justice

LAPD Manhunt: Former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton on Christopher Dorner

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.
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.

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KPCC continues to follow the story of Christopher Jordan Dorner, the ex-LAPD officer suspected in three deaths, including a police officer

Authorities in Big Bear continue their search for Christopher Dorner, the ex-LAPD officer on the run after a series of alleged revenge killings. Yesterday, authorities found his burned out truck near the resort follwed by footprints in the snow. Police spent all night searching in the San Bernadino Mountains, but have not been successful in finding Dorner.

The former Navy reservist was fired from the police force in 2008 for allegedly making false statements about his training officer. In a document posted on his Facebook page, Dorner threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against police. 

There's a widely circulated photo of Dorner with former LAPD chief William Bratton, and CNN reports that a package containing threatening notes and a bullet-ridden coin mentions Bratton by name. Bratton joins us to talk about what he remembers about Dorner and whether he thinks the LAPD's screening and psychological processes need an update.

Interview Highlights:

On whether he remembers Christopher Dorner:
"I have no recollection of his time with the LAPD, either the photos with me up in my office, which were probably taken when he was being called into active duty and heading off to Iraq. Quite frankly, I reviewed the files on the personnel action that led to his firing and I have no recollection of him even from that series of reports. In the LAPD in the course of a year a chief of police reviews hundreds of those types of cases, and his particular set of circumstances, it just just doesn't register with me in the sense of recalling the circumstances of that discharge in 2008, almost 5 years ago."

On the threatening package sent to Anderson Cooper at CNN:
"I was contacted last evening by CNN security to apprise me that they have received this package some number of days ago and that yesterday they were forwarding copies of the package. I think CNN indicated that they returned the package to him. They made photocopies, which they were now making available to the FBI. When they described what was in the package, it was chilling, the idea of that Challenge Coin and the significance of three bullet holes through it, raised it to another level in terms of of the threat and what's going through this individual's mind."

On the LAPD's screening process:
"The LAPD, I can say without fear of contradiction, has the most strenuous screening requirements of any police department in America. It was the source oftentimes of irritation because they were so comprehensive we lost many candidates to other departments who could expedite their clearances faster than we could or would. [Dorner] is a ranking officer in the Navy and has very high level security clearances in that assignment. So in that psychological screening, which is extensive, lie detector tests, we're one of the few departments in America, California, that can use lie detector tests. Quite obviously he met the very high and stringent requirements of the Los Angeles Police Department. Out of every 12 applicants, sometimes as high as 15 applicants only one person actually gets through that process."

On the LAPD's psychiatric facilities:
"We have a very large psychiatric staff in the LAPD, I think its 20-some off personnel in that unit. That unit is involved in the hiring process, any time an officer is involved in a significant use of force, particularly deadly force, before the officer can return to duty he has to basically be with that psychological team battery of examinations that they go through. Again in a large department, we have many more capabilities than most police organizations in the United States to proactively or reactively."

On whether the LAPD follows up with discharged officers:
"After the individual is discharged, that ends it from the department's perspective. In the case of this individual he then subsequently filed an appeal to the courts, which took several years to go through the courts, I think it was in 2010 that his appeal was rejected, so that's almost three years ago. The department would have no contact with him if he's discharged, he doesn't have pension applicability. He was only with the organization for about 5 years including the time that he was on administrative hold while these charges were being processed."

On whether he thinks the LAPD should do more stringent mental evaluations:
"No actually I don't. This individual is quite clearly an exception. There are 800,000 officers in America. The vast vast majority of them perform their duties in the face of incredible stress without succumbing to the murderous rampage that this individual has now embarked on. There are services available for officers oftentimes through their insurance companies, anonymous services that are available to them. My old boss in the police department back in the 1970s were one of the first to create a stress unit specifically to assist officers with these issues. I can speak more recently for the LAPD, the department and its union provide a lot of opportunities and options. And if any officer is showing any sign of mental instability we have the ability to proactively move on that officer."