Cleveland PD's Killing of Tamir Rice Brings to Light Multiple Systemic Violations

Photo by Associated Press
The department is currently under investigation for the November shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a police officer

A  New York Times article paints a fuller picture of the Tamir Rice shooting and highlights the multiple violations committed by the Cleveland Police Department in recent years.

Last November, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by Cleveland police officers in a park for holding a toy gun. After dispatchers received a 911 call from a man who reported that a boy was waving "what was probably a toy" gun, officers were sent to the scene, though it was never relayed to police that the gun was most likely fake. Officer Timothy Loehmann arrived at the scene and within two seconds, according to video surveillance, gunned down Tamir. The boy then lay bleeding without medical attention for a full four minutes while officers neglected to resuscitate him.

After the shooting, Tamir's 14-year-old sister, who was nearby, rushed to her brother's body, but was tackled to the ground and handcuffed by police officers. She was placed in a police car while her brother lay dead.

Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice, found out about the shooting from two young boys who were playing at the park. She rushed to the scene as well, but officers threatened to arrest her if she didn't calm down.

According to Rice, once the ambulance arrived, she was told that her daughter would not be released from police custody, forcing the mother to choose between staying there or going to the hospital with her son. She chose to go with her son, who was pronounced dead at the hospital. More than two months have passed, and the family is still looking for answers. Rice tells the Times, “Nobody has come to knock on my door and told me what happened. Somebody has to be held accountable.”

The Times reports that this isn't the first time that the department has come under fire for acting inappropriately and using excessive force. In 2013, the state attorney general conducted an investigation and found what he called "systemic failure" internally.

Investigators found that the department had used excessive force on multiple occasions. In 2011, video captured police officers kicking a young Black man, Edward Henderson, in the head, though he was lying spread-eagle on the ground. No officers were fired. In another case, more than 60 officers embarked on a high-speed chase when they heard a car backfire and mistook it for gunshots. The chase ended with police firing 137 rounds of gunfire into the car, killing two unarmed civilians. That case launched a Department of Justice investigation, which found that officers who have been accused of using excessive force received minimal punishment for their behavior.

"When everybody violates the rules, the cops are not the problem," Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine said to the Times. You've got a culture problem, you've got a command-and-control problem, you've got a management problem, which goes way past those guys."

The Cleveland Police Department declined to comment on the article, though Detective Steve Loomis, president of a Cleveland police union, said that both the city of Cleveland and the Department of Justice are working to address these problems. 

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