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

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But such tensions also persist in large cities with black power structures, including Washington, New Orleans, and Atlanta. History, geography, neighborhood crime rates, police leadership, and local politics all affect how the public views its police force – and how police officers view the public.

Still, "we do know from various studies of cities that [in] those cities that have African-American mayors, police shoot fewer people and fewer people shoot police," Mr. Skogan says.

"Cities with African-American mayors also tend to have adopted community policing early and are more likely to have police oversight mechanisms in place. Those things go along with the rise of visible African-American power, all of which can make a big policy difference."

Worries in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, the Dorner case appears to have laid bare a rising apprehension among some black residents that the police department is backsliding on gains it had made – in transparency, professional conduct, and community relations – since the Rodney King beating.

Chief Charlie Beck moved almost immediately to address concerns, evidently mindful that the case is breeding resentment against the LAPD. Even before the hunt for Dorner reached its unhappy outcome, Beck told the public that the department would review the ex-cop's allegations that he had been fired unfairly in retaliation for reporting abuse by a colleague.

"We are only as good as the public thinks we are," he said at a Feb. 19 press conference. "Confidence in law enforcement is our stock in trade."

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