LOS ANGELES -- Police Chief Charlie Beck stood in front of a bank of television cameras on Sunday afternoon facing what seemed like two impossible tasks: luring in a fugitive former police officer accused of three murders and simultaneously assuring the public that his department was not backsliding on accusations of racism and corruption.
For the last four days, dozens of law enforcement agencies across Southern California have been searching for Christopher J. Dorner, the former officer who posted a manifesto online promising revenge against Los Angeles police officers and claiming that racism had led to his firing. Chief Beck said on Sunday that the search for Mr. Dorner, who is wanted in connection with the killing of a former police captain's daughter and her fiancé and the shooting death of a police officer in Riverside, Calif., was "by far the largest manhunt in the history of the L.A. region."
Chief Beck spoke with visible emotion of the toll the threats were taking on officers. "I think all of us in law enforcement accept a level of risk when we become police officers," he said at a news conference where he announced a $1 million reward for information that leads to the arrest of Mr. Dorner. "But none of us accept that level of risk for our families, believe me."
At the same time, Chief Beck said he was eager to protect the reputation of a department that he had worked painstakingly to repair over the last several years. On Saturday, he said he would review the investigation of the 2007 episode that led to Mr. Dorner's dismissal. He was fired in 2008 for giving false statements after he accused his training officer of kicking a suspect.
"I hear that people think that maybe there is something to what he says, and I want to put that to rest," Chief Beck said. "The only way I know how to put that to rest is to review what has already been reviewed at multiple levels. But it has never been reviewed by me."
Though many say the Los Angeles Police Department has radically transformed over the last two decades, Mr. Dorner's letter has renewed talk about the department's history of problems in dealing with African-Americans and in investigating charges of racism in its ranks.
"When I read that manifesto, my heart sank," said Connie Rice, a civil rights lawyer who represented police officers who faced retaliation after reporting racial problems and who has worked closely with the department to institute changes. "Anything that threatens to undo what we've worked so hard for can mean a real crisis. They need to show that this isn't the old L.A.P.D. circling the wagons and manning the ramparts, but instead going to look to see if any mistakes were made."
It was still unclear exactly how the department would investigate Mr. Dorner's claims, but Ms. Rice and others said someone outside the police force should lead the inquiry.
"I still don't trust internal affairs," Ms. Rice said.
Late last week, Chief Beck said he believed that Mr. Dorner's dismissal had been "thoroughly adjudicated" and "reviewed at multiple levels." But that did little to quiet speculation in some quarters that the former officer had legitimate claims of racism.
The mistrust of the police deepened for some after two officers mistakenly shot two Latina women, a 71-year-old and her 47-year-old daughter, who were delivering newspapers in a truck that officers thought matched the description of Mr. Dorner's vehicle.
"That's the undercurrent you have -- that police were in such a rush to kill him they shot two Latina women who resemble nothing like a 6-foot-2-inch black man," said Najee Ali, the executive director of Project Islamic Hope, who has been a frequent critic of the department. "That was a game changer for those who had just been casually watching and waiting for this to unfold. It gave the notion that they are out to get people credibility."
But in some way, Mr. Ali said, the chief's decision lends more credence to Mr. Dorner's claims, which are just one part of his eight-page screed that also criticizes Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association and praises the actor Charlie Sheen. (Mr. Sheen posted a video on the Internet over the weekend asking Mr. Dorner to call him so they could "figure out together how to end this thing.")
"They're turning him into some kind of a folk hero," Mr. Ali said. "It gives people a context to view him as a man wrongly vilified by the system. If Beck is caving to political pressure, I'm not sure what it gets anyone -- it's not as though he is going to get his job back."
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who hosts a radio talk show here, said he heard from dozens of listeners who saw a pattern in what Mr. Dorner described.
"Given the history of the L.A.P.D. and the fact that there are so many people who have problems, there was going to be a huge backlash," Mr. Hutchinson said. "There was going to be so much public clamor that Beck knew he had to get in front of it. Even the fact that they are willing to walk it back and look into it is going to be persuasive."
At a forum on Saturday for candidates running for mayor -- sponsored by several African-American groups -- one woman asked each candidate if they would support an investigation of Mr. Dorner's case. Each said they would.
"This has gone far beyond just being about Dorner," said Jan Perry, one of the candidates. "There is a real level of anxiety that people are talking about, and the chief is intelligent to engage in this process."
John Mack, the vice president of the police commission who frequently criticized the police in the past, said it was important that the department not become complacent and assume that the right actions are taken at every level.
"We have to keep our eye on the ball and challenge the system," he said. But he dismissed any concern that a renewed investigation would encourage others who have been dismissed to take similar actions. "We need to be clear this in no way even implies that there was any justification to Mr. Dornan's actions."
Whether an investigation will lead to any new discoveries about Mr. Dorner is impossible to know. But Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa seemingly acknowledged that the authorities wanted him to know that they were looking into his claims.
"This is a man that's been preparing what he's doing for a long time now, it seems as long as 2009," the mayor said. "You can bet, if he's still alive, that he's watching this newscast, that he's reviewing every single article that's written on this."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.