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Legacy of Christopher Dorner case: rekindled distrust, resentment of police

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The list of reforms would grow for years: cultural sensitivity training, community policing, overhauls of officer recruitment and training, new videotaping protections, and citizen oversight boards.

"There have been major strides in improving police departments across the country in the past 30 years," says sociologist Ronald Weitzer at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. "You'll still find pockets [of corruption] – New Orleans is still quite problematic – but there's clearly progress."

One big challenge is that old perceptions – held by both the public and the police – are slow to die, say Mr. Weitzer and others. And those perceptions, shaped by decades of seething relations between African-American communities and local police departments, are refreshed each time police excesses or missteps leap onto the front pages.

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