Ex-LAPD officer speaks out on race, police misconduct

Cheryl Dorsey has written four books since her retirement

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — As the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer accused of killing unarmed Black man George Floyd last May, gets underway this week, you knew that retired Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey would have something to say.

Dorsey has written her autobiography and three novels since she retired after 20 years with the LAPD. She also has served as a consultant to television shows that depict police departments and has become an expert on police misconduct stories for CNN, MSNBC, Headline News and CNN International, among others.

Dorsey said she has witnessed more than her share of police misconduct during her career working the patrol, traffic, vice and the South Bureau Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) unit.

Speaking of the Floyd trial, Dorsey said, “They have been stacking the jury with white people that will be sympathetic to Derek Chauvin. If you answer the questions posed to prospective jurors in the affirmative as a Black person, you will be disqualified.”

Asked about the George Floyd Policing Act, Dorsey said, “I think it’s a waste of time. As a human being, Floyd had a right to life, a right to liberty and freedom from torture, all of which were violated.

“We (as a country) need to take a closer look at human rights but certain people in this country, including some cops, still violate the human and civil rights of people of color,” she added. “In some circles, we are still considered three fifths of a human being.”

During her LAPD career, Dorsey said she was often confronted with racism and sexism on the force by both white and Black police officers.

“I was a victim of all of those ‘isms’ before the ‘Me Too’ movement,” she said.

“I didn’t internalize the mistreatment. I had to learn to turtle up. If you did complain, you would hear ‘Get over it’ by fellow cops and supervisors. When I left work, I left the job at work. I wanted to make it to the finish line and get my pension.”

Dorsey chronicled her experiences as a policewoman in her autobiography “Black and Blue: The Creation of a Social Advocate,” as well as in three novels. Her expertise in law enforcement caught the attention of Hollywood, which has tapped her as a consultant on the Fox network series “First Responders” and the gritty cop show “9-1-1.” “I am handed a script on the set and I check it for authenticity,” she said.

Dorsey said her inspiration to write about her experiences as a cop and becoming an advocate occured after former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner embarked on a killing rampage in 2013.

During the spree, Dorner made public his manifesto, which chronicled his alleged mistreatment at the hands of members of the LAPD.

Fired by the police force in 2009, Dorner’s powerlessness and sense of rage were feelings Dorsey knew only too well.

Dorner shot and killed several people and was eventually tracked to a cabin in the San Bernadino Mountains. During a standoff, the cabin was set on fire and Dorner committed suicide.

“I didn’t condone his actions, but I wanted to speak publicly about what he had experienced,” Dorsey said, adding that she had never met Dorner. “I talked about him in my autobiography. I understood and had experienced the disparity and I wanted other officers to know that there’s a better way to resolve conflict other than going on a killing spree.”

Dorsey also commented on the death last September of 42-year-old homeless man Kurt Reinhold, who was fatally shot by Orange County sheriff’s deputies who tried to cite him for jaywalking.

“His death is an indication that police are not even a little bit inclined to comport themselves,” Dorsey said.

Reinhold’s death was captured on a witness’ cell phone.

Dorsey said that the “thin blue line” in police ranks actually exists, an unspoken code that forbids cops from “snitching” on a partner or fellow cops, even if they break the law or violate a suspect’s rights.

“I will summarize a hypothetical situation where someone’s loyalty to a partner might be questioned,” she said. “Your fellow police officer says, ‘Can you back me up? Can I trust you?’ A fellow police officer might say, ‘I don’t like (the suspect). I want to put him in the system.’

“Then they might go to the station and say that the suspect hit him,” Dorsey continued. “They want to know if you will support them even if they indulge in misconduct. If you complain, it spreads throughout the department.”

The topic switches back to George Floyd.

“That’s why I feel that even if the George Floyd Policing Act bill passes, it will not be that effective,” Dorsey said. “There are still cops on the force that will turn off their body cameras so that they can assault an alleged suspect or plant drugs in a suspect’s car in order to take him to jail.”

Dorsey also believes that there are officers in the LAPD who are members of the Ku Klux Klan.

“My belief is supported by an FBI Department of Justice report that stated that white supremacists and skinheads have infiltrated police forces across the country,” she said. “That DOJ report was written over a decade ago.”

She is not optimistic that policing will change anytime soon.

“There’s a couple of things that need to happen with the police force, but it is my belief that none of it will,” Dorsey said. “Oftentimes police chiefs and their captains will minimize bad behavior and misconduct.

“The first thing would be to hold the officers accountable and punish them when they engage in bad behavior,” she said. “But if you don’t hold officers accountable, why would you do anything different? If you understand that your choices don’t have a consequence, then you will continue to make bad choices.”

Dorsey said that after alleged misconduct, LAPD members seek out the protection and support of the powerful Los Angeles Police Protective League.

“They are attempting to compile a federal registry of cops who violate citizen’s rights,” Dorsey said. “[State] Senator Steve Bradford has introduced a bill to decertify police officers, but the police unions are fighting it. I’d like to see officers on the force be held accountable.”

“I’m an advocate and a champion of human rights,” said the mother of four sons who has made it her mission to expose social and institutional disparities and abuses within the police force and spends time consulting distressed families and attorneys in police shooting incidents.

“I do this because I have the training and the experience to stand in the gap of families that cannot articulate for themselves against savvy police chiefs as well as I can,” she said.

“I know there is still consternation between Black and brown people and police. We have been complaining in our community for decades (about police misconduct) and no one believed us until the Rodney King beating was caught on videotape. Yet, nothing has changed.”

Dorsey can be found on Twitter at sgtcheryldorsey and she can be found on YouTube at sgtdorseyspeaks. Her website is cheryldorsey.com.

Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at metropressnews@gmail.com.