Here’s a rundown of some frequently asked questions about Christopher Dorner, the L.A. cop who got fired from the police department for making an unsubstantiated allegation of misconduct against a superior officer, later got passed over for promotion in the Navy Reserves (effectively ending his military career, perhaps in part because Navy officials became aware of how his police career had ended), then posted a rambling manifesto on the Internet promising to kill the roughly 40 cops and the children of those cops whom he believed had mistreated him, ambushed and murdered the daughter and son-in-law (to be) of the cop who represented him in the administrative hearing that preceded his dismissal, murdered a cop and attempted to murder three other cops on random patrol (none of whom apparently had anything to do with his dismissal), attempted to steal a boat (tying its owner up in the process), invaded a home (tying its occupants up in the process), stole a car, murdered another cop (who also had nothing to to with his dismissal), and critically wounded yet another cop (who again had nothing to do with his dismissal), before apparently committing suicide in yet another home that he invaded and set ablaze.
How did I know his firing was justified without reviewing the record of the administrative proceedings against him?
Good people whose reputations have been slandered and who just want their good names back generally don’t threaten to murder anyone, let alone the children of those whom they believe mistreated them. Psychopaths do that. In his manifesto and in his subsequent actions, he proved that he was everything of which he had been accused and more.
How did I know he’d be deadly but not nearly as deadly as he promised to be in his manifesto?
He was apparently a narcissist, which means his self-image substantially exceeded reality. In his manifesto, he touted himself as an excellent writer, but his manifesto was full of errors. I said that publicly when he was on the run. Now, here’s the part that I didn’t say then, because if he happened to be monitoring the media, I didn’t want to “egg him on” in any way: I strongly suspected then that his tactical prowess would likely have been about as overstated as were his writing skills, and I predicted that he’d use the element of surprise to ambush and kill a couple of law-enforcement officers as they closed in on him before committing suicide or “suicide by cop” (which doesn’t negate the possibility that he left booby traps in various places in an attempt to cause his final carnage from beyond the grave, so cops still need to be extremely alert to that possibility as they wrap up this investigation).
Usually people who have a lot of ability to do major damage don’t tell the world about it first. They tend to just do (or attempt) it, which is part of what makes them as dangerous as they are. For example, if a guy really has a surface-to-air missile with which he could — and wants to — bring down a police helicopter, he usually doesn’t tell the police that he has it. If he tells the police that he has it, he’s probably just hoping to intimidate the police out of searching for him with helicopters. You can see a similar effect on an international scale with North Korea, Iran, and nuclear weapons. North Korea is open about its possession of nuclear weapons. While its recent nuclear tests prove that it truly has the weapons, its openness suggests that it doesn’t really want to use them aggressively but that it wants to intimidate the rest of the world out of taking any military action toward it. In contrast, Iran attempts to conceal its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. While it’s believed not to have successfully built one yet, its concealment suggests that it may actually intend to shock the world by actually using such a weapon, perhaps against Israel, or by giving such a weapon to a terrorist group to use, perhaps against the U.S. That’s why I believe that Iran is a far more pressing problem for the U.S. and its allies than North Korea is, even though North Korea is the one currently detonating bombs.
How did I know he wasn’t just crazy?
Purely crazy people usually aren’t all that dangerous. They may very well pose some danger to their family members who live with them, or to their caregivers in mental hospitals, or to cops attempting to arrest them, but they’re generally not able to engage in the complex planning, preparation, and practice of mass murder. From the jump, this looked to me like a “narcissistic collapse,” whereby a person builds a facade in which he or she takes great pride, and when the facade crumbles, the person becomes enraged by the exposure of his or her true self and projects blame for the breakdown of the facade onto others — sometimes onto specific people (like the officers named in his manifesto) or institutions (like the L.A.P.D.), and sometimes onto society at large.
Why didn’t he kill the civilians who owned the boat that he tried to steal, the first home that he invaded, and the car that he stole?
Now that he’s gone, we may never know (unless perhaps he explained it to them), but my bet would be that, at some level, precisely because he wasn’t just crazy, he knew that it was wrong to murder innocent people, even if he did truly believe that he had been wronged by the police department.
How did I know he’d go down in a blaze of suicidal (what he perceived to be) “glory”?
In part, because he indicated in his manifesto that he would, and I took him at his word, but also because narcissistic psychopaths are almost always cowards (they may not fear death, but they usually fear pain — the physical pain of being wounded, the psychological pain of being publicly punished/humiliated, etc.). Sure, he had the “courage” to kill an unsuspecting, unarmed woman and her husband (the daughter and son-in-law-to-be of the cop who represented him at his administrative hearing) in a parking garage. Sure he had the “courage” to hide and take pot shots at police officers sitting in a patrol car. Sure, he had the “courage” to hold unarmed civilians at gunpoint and tie them up (at the boat and at the first home that he invaded). Sure, he had the “courage” to shoot at pursuers whom he was able to surprise and/or over whom he (temporarily) had superior firepower. But when he was finally confronted with overwhelming counter force at the cabin where he made his “last stand,” what did he do? Apparently, he killed himself, just as so many other psychopathic cowards (with the notable exceptions of Anders Breivik and James Holmes, about whom I’ve written and spoken extensively) have done when counter force has arrived on the scenes of mass (e.g. school and shopping-mall) shootings (which is why you should want other guns — either in the hands of law-enforcement professionals or at least in the hands of well-vetted law-abiding citizens — in places where such shootings might occur).
Did the police do anything wrong?
No and yes. Some have criticized the Chief of the L.A.P.D. for publicly announcing that he’s reviewing Dorner’s dismissal (this chief wasn’t yet the chief when Dorner was fired) because that sounded like an acknowledgement that Dorner had cause for his rage. I don’t agree. Of course there’s been misconduct within the L.A.P.D. at times, as there is in virtually every large organization, some of which may even have been directed at Dorner. There are bad apples in every bunch, but most cops are good people who go into law enforcement for the right reasons, and I think the Chief is just trying, as he said, to reassure the public that his department is trustworthy and transparent. It’s important to reiterate, though, that nothing inappropriate that happened in that department, even if it happened to Dorner — not racism, not false allegations, nothing — justifies what Dorner did. In the course of the manhunt for Dorner, two civilians were mistakenly fired upon by cops because they were in a vehicle almost identical to Dorner’s in close proximity to the home of one of the targets named in his manifesto. I blame Dorner for that more than the cops. And I don’t know what the cops could’ve done much differently to prevent the casualties that they suffered during the manhunt. A suicidal coward who hides in wait to shoot at people is extremely dangerous because, as I predicted, he or she is likely to get some shots off before his or her pursuers ascertain his or her location and can direct overwhelming counter force toward him or her.
Here’s where I think that the L.A.P.D. probably went wrong — way back at the beginning, when Dorner was first accepted into police training. While most cops go into law enforcement for the right reasons, like my dad did, there’s a relatively small but dangerous subset of antisocial narcissists who go into it because it’s a way to exert power over people with society’s blessing (good cops know who the exceptions are in any department). Sometimes, if they can keep their antisocial narcissism contained, members of this subset can actually make successful cops because they can think like criminals and predict their behavior. Members of this subset are also, however, prone to drive recklessly, use excessive force, falsify evidence, etc., and if they hadn’t become cops, they may well have been among the very criminals from whom our cops protect us.
I believe Dorner was likely a member of that subset, and when his narcissistic “good cop” facade broke down, I believe he quickly switched over to the other (criminal) side. It sounds like Dorner’s life history (e.g. fights, etc.) should’ve raised concerns about his reasons for wanting to be a cop back when he first applied (and he may have wanted to join the military for some of those same reasons). I’ve done psychological evaluations of police applicants, and Dorner strikes me as among the very types that I’ve tried to help departments to “weed out” at the pre-employment stage. This illustrates why personality assessment is extremely important in law-enforcement and in many civilian organizations as well. Even after Dorner was accepted into police training, while that training was still underway, it sounds like Dorner was showing signs of inability or (more likely) unwillingness to contain his antisocial narcissism. In his manifesto (which he, in his apparent narcissism, thought made him look good), he described an incident in which he put his hands around the neck and had to be pulled off of a fellow trainee whom he allegedly had overheard using a racial slur (and in the manifesto, he said he actually should’ve shot the other trainee).
Now don’t get me wrong, if the other trainee used a racial slur, that was utterly inappropriate and a major red flag about that trainee’s ability to police a diverse community effectively, but a guy like Dorner who apparently couldn’t or (more likely) wouldn’t contain his anger, in my estimation, should never have been trusted to police that community — in my opinion, his volatile behavior should have been expected to escalate, and he should’ve been kicked out of police training way back then, before he ever even became a cop. Like so many other cases about which I’ve written and spoken, this looks like a case of a guy who was actually given too many chances as opposed to not enough, and by the time the department (and quite possibly also the Navy) realized that, it was too late — the facade had lasted too long, and the rage precipitated by its crumbling had become deadly. This illustrates why risk assessment is extremely important once an existing member of an organization has indicated that he or she may pose a risk (physically and/or ethically).
Am I worried about the state of our union because some Americans are glorifying Dorner on the Internet as a vigilante martyr?
That’s an appropriate question on the night of the President’s State of the Union Address. Yes, I’m worried about the state of our union, for reasons about which I write and speak often (e.g. our unsustainable government spending, our weak foreign policy and border enforcement, our softness on crime, our ineffective pubic education system, our culture of entitlement and disrespect, etc.), but this isn’t one of those. The relatively few Americans who are idolizing Dorner online represent a small, stupid, sociopathic subset of society. Most are probably just criminals who hold grudges against the cops for arresting them, as if the cops were to blame (which is how a narcissistic sociopath — notice how narcissism and sociopathy seem to occur together; that’s because narcissism is a principal constituent of sociopathy — would choose to see it). Some are probably just anti-establishment, anarchistic, “Occupy Wall Street” types who’d like to see civil order fall apart and chaos reign. And others are probably just low-life losers who think they’re shocking and impressing somebody by supporting Dorner. We have over 300 million people living here in the U.S.A., so we’re going to have plenty of these kinds of idiots unfortunately. Fortunately though, they’re relatively irrelevant in terms of their influence on how the rest of America thinks. Their impact on society is actually more direct, coming in the form of the crime that they’ve committed and will commit, which may now include Dorner-copycat crime, and I do worry about that.