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“So Killing Tamir Rice Was…Reasonable?”: A State-Sanctioned Drive-By—And Nobody Will Pay A Price For That

He is going to get away with it.

The Cleveland police officer who shot an unarmed 12-year-old boy will never spend a day in jail. He will never be charged with any criminal offense. He will never be booked and fingerprinted, never handcuffed. He will never be forced to explain himself before a jury of his peers.

Few things unnerve me. I am slow to anger and am not prone to tears.  But I was both Saturday night—pissed off and crying—because somebody somewhere said it was OK to kill a black child. Two investigators, working at the behest of a local prosecutor, said killing Tamir Rice was reasonable.

For nearly a year, that same prosecutor has been looking for a way to cover his proverbial ass, to assuage public pressure and help us all forget that a rookie cop who repeatedly failed field and fire arms training before getting kicked off another department shot a black kid without provocation.

Tamir was shot on sight.

It was clear that the officers did not know the entire incident was captured on camera. They said Tamir was sitting at the table with a group of people when, in fact, he was alone.

They said Tamir reached into his waistband and pulled out the toy gun before he was then shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann. “He gave me no choice. He reached for the gun and there was nothing I could do,” Loehmann told a fellow officer in the moments after he shot Tamir.

That was a lie too. The video clearly shows that Tamir used both hands to hold his shirt up to expose the BB gun just before he was shot and fell from the table.

Another demonstrable lie: Loehmann also claimed that he repeatedly ordered Tamir to put his hands up. In fact, Tamir was shot within two seconds of the squad car door opening. The wheels were barely at a complete stop. There was no time to order Tamir to do anything, let alone three times, as Loehmann contends, and no time for Tamir to react.

Tamir never removed the toy from his waistband and never pointed it at the officers, thus at no point could they have determined whether the orange safety tip was missing. Tamir presented no threat to anyone and, even if the gun were real, Ohio is an open-carry state. The minimum age is 18, but remember the officers said they thought Tamir was in his 20s.

As Tamir lay on the icy concrete fighting for his life, neither Loehmann nor his partner Frank Garmback thought to render first aid. An FBI agent who happened to be in the area working a bank robbery came by a few minutes later and tried desperately to resuscitate the boy.

In the end, none of that will matter. Not the videotape, not the lies, not the failure to render aid to a dying boy. There will be no grand jury indictment and the probability that Loehmann will face criminal charges is hovering around zero. Even if Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty were of the mind to take this case to trial, the deck would be stacked against him.

Such charges against a police officer are extraordinarily rare in Ohio or anywhere else in the country. When there is a grand jury indictment, the probability of a conviction is even smaller. Convincing 12 people that a member of law enforcement acted with illegal force in the killing of a suspect is a steep hill to climb. When the officer is white and victim is black, the pathway to justice grows even rockier.

However, McGinty appears to be participating in the card shuffling. The investigation has dragged on for nearly a year. If the roles had been reversed—a 12-year-old black boy shooting a white police officer—Tamir would have been indicted on first-degree murder charges and tried as an adult. Had Tamir lived, he would have faced criminal charges. An incident report filed a full week after he died alleged “aggravated menacing” and “inducing panic.” Those charges were “abated by death.”

Without question, tape or no tape, if the roles were reversed, McGinty would have sprinted to the grand jury room and dared anyone to challenge that decision. He certainly would not be gaming the public and rigging the process by releasing two reports that appear to exonerate the officers on a Saturday night before a grand jury has had a chance to review the evidence.

We should be troubled by the notion that Loehmann was an officer at all, that somebody on the Cleveland police department saw fit to hand him a badge and a gun in the first place. Another department in the area previously fired him because he was unable to follow “basic functions as instructed.” He experienced a “dangerous loss of composure” during a weapons training exercise and his performance was “dismal,” wrote a former commander. The written memo said further that Loehmann demonstrated “a lack of maturity.”

“I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies,” the author of the memo wrote.

I resent that there is a system in place designed, ready, and eager to protect Loehmann. Hiring him without reviewing his personnel records was nothing short of malfeasance. I resent that anyone deemed him worthy to serve and protect.

But more than that, I resent the notion that our sons are required to meet a different standard when confronted by police or other people in authority. I resent the fact that my sons and daughters cannot play with the same toys. I resent the fact that young Tamir could not play in a public park without the threat of death or jail. I resent that anyone anywhere would dare blame Tamir’s mother for her son’s death. I resent that fact that open-carry laws are not designed to protect my black children and me, but rather to protect society from me and my black children.

Whether driven by implicit racial bias or plain incompetence, despite assurances from the district attorney that he will take the matter to a grand jury, I do not harbor a scintilla of confidence that Loehmann will ever answer for killing this child.

I resent the fact that Tamir is dead—killed in a state-sanctioned drive-by—and that nobody will pay a price for that.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, October 12, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Cleveland Police Department, Police Shootings, Tamir Rice | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Patterns Or Practice Of Unnecessary Force”: Justice Department Reaches Settlement With Cleveland Over Police Conduct

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland over the conduct of its police officers, the latest case in which the Obama administration has investigated excessive use of force and the violation of constitutional rights by a local department, according to an agency official.

The settlement, amid the growing national debate about American policing, is expected to be announced early this week, the official said. It comes just days after a judge acquitted a Cleveland police officer for his role in the fatal shooting of two unarmed people in a car in 2012 when officers thought the sound of the car backfiring was gunshots.

The Justice Department in December issued a scathing report that accused the Cleveland Police Department of illegally using sometimes deadly force against citizens. The Justice Department civil rights division found that the Cleveland police engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force — including shooting residents, striking them in the head and spraying them with chemicals.

In one incident, an officer used a stun gun on “a suicidal, deaf man who committed no crime, posed minimal risk to officers and may not have understood officers’ commands.” The police were also accused of repeatedly punching in the face a handcuffed 13-year-old boy who had been arrested for shoplifting.

The Cleveland report was released the month after a 12-year-old African American boy, Tamir Rice, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer. Cleveland officers had responded to a 911 call that reported a person pointing a gun. It turned out to be a toy pistol.

A Justice Department spokeswoman would not comment on the settlement, which was first reported on the Web site of the New York Times.

When last year’s report about Cleveland was released, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. traveled to the city to announce the findings and said the Justice Department and the city had agreed to establish an independent monitor who would oversee police reforms. The changes will include better training and better supervision of officers, Holder said.

In the past five years, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has opened more than 20 investigations of police departments across the country, more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five. The department has entered into 15 agreements with law enforcement agencies, including consent decrees with nine of them. They include the New Orleans and Albuquerque police departments.

The Cleveland settlement will be the first under the new attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch.

Justice Department officials would not provide any details of the Cleveland settlement. But other cases have required an independent monitor and significant changes in training and policies.

Since April 27, when Lynch was sworn in as the first African American woman to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official, she has been immersed in the debate on policing tactics. Her first meeting with President Obama was to discuss the violence in Baltimore after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. Six Baltimore police officers have been indicted in connection with Gray’s death.

Lynch’s first official trip was to Baltimore to meet with the mayor, law enforcement officials and community leaders. She also met with Gray’s family and spoke with an officer who was injured in the violence.

At her first news conference, on May 8, Lynch announced that the Justice Department had opened a broad “pattern or practice” investigation into the Baltimore Police Department to determine whether officers have committed systemic constitutional violations.

The investigation is separate from the Justice Department’s criminal civil rights probe into the death of Gray.

Similarly, the settlement with the city of Cleveland is separate from the Justice Department’s investigation into the conduct of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo.

On Saturday, a judge found Brelo, a 31-year-old white officer, not guilty of two counts of felony manslaughter in the deaths of African Americans Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30.

Hours of protests ensued in downtown Cleveland, and the Justice Department released a statement saying that the Cleveland U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI and the Justice Department’s civil rights division were all still investigating the case.

Russell and Williams were killed in November after they led 62 police vehicles on a chase across Cleveland. When Russell’s car finally stopped, 13 officers opened fire and shot at least 137 rounds into the vehicle. Brelo was accused of being the only one who continued to shoot after any possible threat was contained. Prosecutors said he climbed onto the hood of the car and shot 15 rounds into the windshield, striking both Russell and Williams.

“We will continue our assessment, review all available legal options and will collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable laws in the federal judicial system,” said the statement from several officials, including Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

As with the Ferguson, Mo., civil rights investigation into the August death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson, the Justice Department faces a high bar in bringing federal civil rights charges. Prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo intended to violate the constitutional rights of Russell and Williams.

When Holder released the December report about the “unreasonable and unnecessary” use of force by the Cleveland police, he said he was hopeful that “meaningful change” was possible in the police department.

“Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve,” Holder said.

 

By: Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post, May 25, 2015

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights, Cleveland Police Department, U. S. Department of Justice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Emotional Distress And Mental Anguish”: Cleveland Cops Involved In 137-Shot Barrage Claim They’re Victims Of Discrimination

Nine of the 13 Cleveland police officers involved in a 137-shot barrage that left an unarmed black man and woman dead after a high-speed chase in 2012 filed a lawsuit last November claiming that they were treated too harshly and discriminated against by the police department in the aftermath of the shooting.

Michael Brelo, the white officer acquitted on Saturday of manslaughter charges for the shooting, isn’t involved in the lawsuit. The nine other officers, eight of whom are white and one of whom is Hispanic, claim the Cleveland Police Department treats non-black cops more harshly than African-American officers when they use force against black suspects, Cleveland.com’s Cory Shaffer reported.

“The City of Cleveland, through the other named defendants, and the other named defendants in their individual capacities, have a history of treating non-African American officers involved in the shootings of African Americans substantially harsher than African American officers,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit complains that the nine officers have been placed on restricted duty for far longer than the traditional 45 days following a police shooting, preventing them from earning overtime pay and forcing them to conduct “boring, menial tasks.” This, the lawsuit says, has impaired the officers’ pay and reputation and caused “emotional distress and mental anguish.”

The city denied all the allegations of discrimination in a response reported by the Cleveland Scene’s Doug Brown in January. There has been little movement in the case since then.

The lawsuit drew almost immediate criticism when it was filed in November because it felt so tone-deaf to critics of police in Cleveland and across the country.

“Yes, Cleveland police officers involved in killing two unarmed people are saying that extra long ‘gym duty’ because of their roles in a shooting incident resulted in ’emotional distress’ and ‘mental anguish,'” the Cleveland Scene’s Doug Brown wrote at the time. “Not that they killed people, but because of gym duty.”

Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement rose to national prominence as several police killings of black men and boys highlighted racial disparities in police use of force, including the deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

But police officers, backed by their powerful unions, have by and large rejected this type of criticism. Not only do many cops and their supporters deny claims of discrimination, but they also worry that the increased scrutiny will make it more difficult to use force in scenarios that call for it, potentially putting officers and others in danger.

The disagreement has led some police officers to lash out. In New York City, after Mayor Bill de Blasio said he taught his biracial son to be careful around police, the city’s officers appeared to protest through weeks of a “work slowdown” in which they purposely reduced their activity and carried out fewer arrests.

The lawsuit from the nine Cleveland officers is another example of cops attempting to turn the criticisms around. Instead of acknowledging the disparities in the criminal justice system and the many contributing factors, these officers are saying that it’s actually they who are the victims of systemic discrimination.

 

By: German Lopez, Vox, May 24, 2015

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Cleveland Police Department, Police Brutality, Police Shootings | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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