*Brian Bentley, 49, doesn’t agree with what Christopher Dorner — the ex-cop at center of a massive manhunt for the killings of three people—has done, but he certainly understands it.
As a former LAPD officer, Bentley, who is now an author, says that a Dorner-like situation was just a matter of time.
“It took longer than I thought it would for something like this to happen.”
In fact, Bentley says that when he was a police officer, there were frequent postings of “look out” bulletins on the walls at police stations featuring officers who’d been terminated and who were believed to have vendettas.
“When the Department terminated you, they intentionally tried to ruin your life,” Bentley explains. “That’s how they discredited you. Dorner isn’t the first ex-police officer to have a manifesto or some sort of hit list.”
And he should know.
Brian Bentley left the LAPD in 1999 after serving ten years with the Department. He was a police officer in 1992 during the uprising and was assigned to guard O.J. Simpson’s house in Brentwood during the infamous trial. He served under police chiefs Daryl Gates, Bayan Lewis, Willie Williams, and Bernard Parks. However, he was fired for writing the book One Time: The Story of a South Central Los Angeles Police Officer that detailed the massive misconduct and racism he witnessed during his time at the LAPD’s Southwest and West L.A. divisions.
He says that when he left the Department he had a manifesto of his own. Not one that involved killing anyone, but a list of people who had wronged him during his time at the Department.
Bentley originally joined the department in 1989 after working as an assistant manager and loan officer for Security Pacific National Bank on 29th and Crenshaw in the West Adams area of Los Angeles. He says that the bank was robbed so many times that the LAPD was always in and out the bank and over the years he developed a relationship with the officers who would respond.
“Back then the LAPD was making a big push bring on more professional people,” Brian says. “They wanted college graduates, blacks, and gays.”
A graduate of Westchester High School and California State University, Los Angeles, Brian remembers going downtown to apply for a public relations specialist job with the City of Los Angeles.
“I walked in and I saw big poster of a black guy in a uniform with a badge. I saw what they were making and what public relations specialists were making and so I applied.”
Prior to joining the Department, Brian says that he didn’t have any negative feelings about the LAPD.
“I signed up because I wanted to make a difference in my community—I wanted to change lives,” he says.
Young, eager to serve, and ready get involved, Brian says that he will never forget what he was told on his first day at the Los Angeles Police Academy.
“I was told that ‘we don’t want people like you here. We have people like you in Nickerson Gardens’.”
Brian continues, “It was horrible for me from day one. I had people pushing me to quit and resign. It was always a fight.”
The ex-policeman recalls that his training officer told him that he didn’t belong there because he was black.
Having grown up being taught to be involved in his community, Brian lived in the same area that he patrolled. He said that he didn’t want to be one of those officers who lived in the Inland Empire or Orange County who came into Los Angeles. He was a part of the community, on and off the clock.
For his “rookie year” Bentley was assigned to West L.A. and worked alongside former LAPD detective Mark Furman best known for his part in the investigation of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and his subsequent felony conviction for perjury.
When trying to figure out where he wanted to work permanently, Brian reflects in his book, that he eliminated the 77th division after speaking to black officers with seniority. These officers told him that 77th division had the most outwardly racist officers of all of South Central Los Angeles along with white and Hispanic officers who went out of their way to make black officers feel uncomfortable.
Brian settled on the LAPD’s Southwest division which was at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Denker Avenue in South Los Angeles.
At the time, Southwest had the second largest population of black officers next to the Wilshire division which had been nicknamed “the plantation.”
He writes in his book, One Time: The Story of a South Central Los Angeles Police Officer:
Unfortunately, at the time of my arrival, the division was recovering from a highly publicized multi-million dollar lawsuit. Several police officers from the division demolished an alleged rock house on 39th and Dalton Ave.
On top of that, two officers from the division were in the county jail awaiting trial for robbery and rape charges. The station motto was: “We don’t get days, we get time.” The motto meant officers didn’t get suspended without pay for misconduct, they got sentenced to prison for felony crimes. As a result, the division was nicknamed “South’s Worst.”
Despite the bad reputation of the division, I was happy to be there and nothing about the station bothered me.
But that feeling quickly changed.
When Brian Bentley joined the LAPD, he explains that it during the time that personnel complaints were not taken.
He remembers trying to make a complaint to his captain about the racism he experienced and was told, ‘I’ve been on the job for 35 years, you don’t think I know there’s racism. Who do you want me to bring it to? The deputy chief or the chief are just as racist?’ and then proceeded to kick him out of his office.
When asked if he thought the Department had changed since he was a part of it, Brian said no.
Diversity training for officers not just in how to deal with the community that they serve, but with the officers they work with, is part of what’s needed he says.
“Even though officers today can file personnel complaints—look at what happens,” he says referring to Christopher Dorner. “There are clearly flaws in the system and Dorner is just one example of something that African-American officers have been experiencing for decades in the LAPD.”
Brian said that he’s still in close contact with friends who are LAPD officers and he says that he knows for a fact that it’s still a bad environment for African-American officers.
Sadly he recalls the experience of three of his fellow officers who also had manifestos similar to Christopher Dorner’s, two black officers and one white female officer, who – instead of acting on their manifestos – committed suicide. It’s something that Brian says is common amongst officers who are terminated and believe the Department has wronged them.
When asked if he believed the claims made in the Dorner manifesto, Brian is very clear.
“Not only do I believe it, but I lived it.”
After writing his book, Brian says that he was the subject of an investigation that was led by two officers profiled in his book that had been promoted to Sergeant and transferred to the Internal Affairs department.
Several interrogations later, including one that lasted 7 hours, Brian says that he was given a charge of misconduct for every incident of racism that he documented in his book that he didn’t report—thus giving him the most charges of misconduct in the history of the LAPD.
So why write the book?
Brian says that what was happening everyday in South Los Angeles at the hands of LAPD officers was wrong and he knew it was wrong. He felt that he needed to write about it and that what was happening needed to be exposed. He didn’t think he’d be fired for writing the book, reprimanded maybe, but not fired.
14 years later, today Brian Bentley is a father of three and fully invested in his children’s lives. He’s written a second a book, a novel entitled Honor With Integrity: A Journey Behind the Blue Line.
He’s closely monitoring the Dorner situation and hoping for a peaceful end for a man whom he says that while he doesn’t condone the killings, he can definitely understand his frustration.
For this ex-police officer, he has hopes that through Christopher Dorner’s manifesto that a real conversation can take place in Los Angeles about LAPD’s internal policies as well as the racism that still exists in the Department.
On whether or not the LAPD is capable of investigating itself, Brian doesn’t believe that it is possible.
“We’ve seen what happens when the LAPD investigates the LAPD.”
Brian S. Bentley’s books One Time: The Story of a South Los Angeles Police Officer and Honor Without Integrity: A Journey Behind the Blue Line are available on Amazon.com.
Chosen as one of Essence Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, Jasmyne A. Cannick is a radio and television politics, race, and pop culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne and on Facebook at /jasmyne.