SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A Washington D.C.-based think-tank is reviewing law enforcement's response to the deadly crime spree involving disgruntled former Los Angeles police Officer Chris Dorner and will present its findings in a report to be released in the fall.
The Police Foundation, founded in 1970 with an endowment from the Ford Foundation, is the oldest nonpartisan law enforcement think tank in the country, with the overall goal of improving police effectiveness and their relationships with their communities.
Retired Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann, who is president of the foundation, said he approached San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon in the spring with the proposal.
"He was very interested," Bueermann said Wednesday. "The sheriff has a great understanding of the importance of this event to American law enforcement nationwide."
Among Dorner's victims was San Bernardino County sheriff's Detective Jeremiah MacKay, who was shot and killed in a shootout with the rogue ex-cop in the San Bernardino Mountains. Dorner previously killed a Riverside police officer and a couple in Irvine in his rampage against the Los Angeles Police Department for firing him, authorities said.
McMahon said Wednesday that his discussions with other police agencies about a third party reviewing the Dorner case started before his contact with Bueermann.
"We had had some discussions as to if there was a way to
review this incident in totality to find out what lessons can be learned from it," McMahon said. "There's an extreme amount of interest from other law enforcement agencies throughout the country because of the magnitude of this."
He said the Police Foundation immediately came to mind due to Bueermann's connections to Inland Empire law enforcement and his familiarity with the area.
"We all agreed it would be a great opportunity to work with them and have the Police Foundation look at the total chain of events, from beginning to end, document what worked well, and if there was anything we could learn from it and if there was something that could be shared with other law enforcement agencies that may not have experienced an event of this magnitude," McMahon said. "More than likely there's going to be several lessons to be learned from this."
Meanwhile, McMahon said his department is getting close to wrapping up its internal investigation of the Dorner manhunt in Big Bear Lake and the shootout and standoff near Barton Flats.
The crux of the Police Foundation's review, Bueermann said, is to focus on the lessons learned from the Dorner case.
"Law enforcement always welcomes a review of how we do stuff, especially as we've moved into more and more transparency," Los Angeles police Commander Andy Smith said. "Good, bad or ugly, we want to know what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we can do better in the future."
Shortly after his termination from the LAPD was upheld by a board of rights panel, Dorner, in a rambling Facebook manifesto, vowed in February "unconventional and asymetrical warfare" against police and their families." His first victims were the daughter of a retired Los Angeles police captain and her fiance, who were found shot to death in a parking structure at an Irvine condominium complex on Feb. 4.
On Feb. 7, Dorner shot and killed Riverside police officer Michael Crain and seriously wounded his partner, Andrew Tachias, as they sat in their patrol car at a red light at Magnolia and Arlington avenues in Riverside. Minutes before the shooting, Dorner allegedly shot at two Los Angeles police officers assigned to protect a person connected to Dorner's threats who lives in Corona. A bullet grazed the head of one of the officers.
Dorner subsequently fled to the San Bernardino Mountains. His burning truck was found abandoned near the Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Big Bear lake.
Dorner is believed to have taken refuge in a vacant condominium for nearly a week before the owners arrived and caught him by surprise. He bound them with zip ties and fled in their car, leading state Fish and Game wardens and sheriff's deputies on a vehicle pursuit along Highway 38 and into the Barton Flats area above Angelus Oaks.
There, Dorner barricaded himself in a cabin and engaged deputies in a gun battle, killing MacKay and wounding Deputy Alex Collins. Dorner took his own life, with a bullet to the head, after hot tear gas canisters fired into the cabin as a means of flushing him out caught the cabin afire, authorities said.
Bueermann said a team of veteran law enforcement experts will conduct the review and draft the report. They include: retired Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian, who is also the former director of the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and Susan Rahr, the retired sheriff of King County, Wash.
Bueermann said the review is expected to wrap up by the end of summer and the report available in the fall, possibly sooner. It will be sent to every law enforcement agency in the country, he said.
One individual who is not involved in the review, Bueermann said, is former San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops, who resigned in November to take a job with the Police Foundation.
"Many of the people involved in this he is close to, so he stepped away from this and will have no involvement in this review," Bueermann said.
Stephen Tibbetts, a criminal justice professor at Cal State San Bernardino, embraces the idea of having a third party review of the case. He said some think tanks have a liberal bent and others a conservative bent, but there is usually always someone on staff to counter that.
"Getting an objective, nonbiased report, that's really the goal," Tibbetts said. "It's always good to get that extra third-party perspective."