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Dorner case: LAPD will probe officer discipline process

February 26, 2013 |  5:28 pm

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday announced plans to carry out a broad review of the LAPD's procedures for disciplining officers, a move he said was needed to address a vein of discontent among cops that has surfaced in the wake of the Christopher Dorner case.

Dorner, a former LAPD officer who killed four people and injured three others this month in a revenge campaign for being fired from the department, stirred long-simmering anger among former and current officers when he claimed in an online manifesto that he had been railroaded by a discipline system he described as capricious and racially biased.

It is a sentiment that runs deep in the LAPD and Beck said he felt obligated to undertake the review to better understand it and perhaps make changes. He cautioned, however, that he is powerless on his own to tinker with much of the discipline process since it is written into the city's charter, which can only be changed by a popular vote.

Beck voiced confidence that there "are not any inherent flaws" in the discipline system itself, but said the way it is applied from one officer to the next may not be equitable. While he offered few details, Beck indicated the review would include an examination of whether punishments vary based on race, gender and an officer's rank.

As chief, Beck has the authority to suspend officers who are found by internal investigations to have committed misconduct. Officers facing serious allegations often are sent to a Board of Rights -- a quasi-trial in which 2 LAPD commanders and a civilian decide  whether the officer should be fired.

In his manifesto, Dorner allegedly claimed LAPD officials fired him in 2009 in order to protect the career of another officer, whom Dorner had accused of using excessive force on a man. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing and officials concluded Dorner had fabricated the claims. 

He died Feb. 12 from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot as authorities moved in on the Big Bear cabin where he had barricaded himself.

Earlier, Beck appointed a senior advisor to reexamine the investigation the department did into Dorner's allegations and the Board of Rights proceedings that led to his firing. That review, he said, is expected to be completed in coming months. Beck did not give a time frame for the broader review, but said it will take longer as he wants to collect a wide range of opinions on the discipline process from officers and commanders.

In answering reporters' questions, Beck acknowledged an Associated Press report that a handful of LAPD officers have asked the LAPD to review their discipline cases as it is reviewing Dorner's. Beck said the department would do so.

-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters

 Photo: Police Chief Charlie Beck discusses the Dorner case Feb. 19. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press