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Hunt for Christopher Dorner becomes major PR problem for L.A. police (+video)

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck says he will review alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner's charges of racism. It could be an important step in reversing the LAPD’s history of corruption and abuse.

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But Beck says, "I do this not to appease a murderer…. I do it to reassure the public that their police department is transparent and fair in all the things we do."

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A special joint task force is being formed to investigate the Dorner case, the Los Angeles Times reports. Participating agencies include the Irvine and Riverside police departments, the FBI, the US Marshals Service, and other law enforcement organizations.

“It is important to acknowledge this history if we are to understand and overcome the disturbing support for Dorner's manifesto from the black community on the Internet and on black radio, and if we are to ever free ourselves from the toxic wake of the LAPD's past,” civil rights attorney Connie Rice writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed column.

But Ms. Rice, who has faced off against the LAPD many times in court, says Dorner “is absolutely wrong” when he states in the manifesto that the department has not changed in the years since officers on patrol were racially segregated and police brutality like the Rodney King episode caused violent riots.

“The LAPD has definitely changed at the top and is currently in the process of changing its old guard culture,” she writes. “We're not done; there are decades still of work to be done to change the institutional culture, but … the good guys are now in charge of LAPD culture; it is a huge change and the right beginning to real police reform.”

While this may be a generally accepted view among experts and most residents of Los Angeles, this past week’s shooting of innocent bystanders reminds many Angelenos of a darker shoot-first-ask-questions-later past.

Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, questions Beck’s initial comments following the mistaken shooting of newspaper carriers Margie Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez, both of whom are recovering from their injuries.

Also appearing in the Los Angeles Times as a guest columnist, Mr. Villagra writes: “When Beck says that it's not difficult to imagine how officers who were already on edge could make the mistake these officers did, even if he is not commenting directly on this shooting, he risks suggesting that he has prejudged their behavior as excusable, a suggestion that is particularly troubling for those who live in communities where officer-involved shootings happen regularly.”

The LAPD is investigating the incident, reported to have involved dozens of shots fired by at least seven officers. Meanwhile, Beck has met with the two women in their home to apologize and to promise that their bullet-riddled truck will be replaced with a new one.

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