Six years after the killing of then 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the Justice Department has refused to bring criminal charges against the two Cleveland officers responsible. Relying on a high standard of providing beyond a reasonable doubt the officers acted with willful intent, prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to find a violation of Tamir Rice’s constitutional rights or that the officers obstructed justice. 

In an interview with Cleveland.com, Tamir’s mother Samaria Rice described feeling horrible upon learning about the decision. “It continues to show how broken the system is.” Back in July, Samaria Rice was one of seven mothers who spoke with ABC News recounting her journey since the killing of her son. 

“Tamir is in high demand and I’m his voice, so that keeps me really busy in wanting to give back to the community with his foundation, and things that I’m doing with the platform that I have — the platform that America has provided me,” said Rice. “I’m still being a mom, a grandmother and I’m always going to be fighting for police reform, dismantling the whole system.”

A June 2020 analysis of use of force investigations by theTransactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) found that federal criminal charges brought against police officers for violating an individual’s constitutional rights were rare.  Housed at Syracuse University, TRAC found that between 1990 and 2019, federal prosecutors filed charges against law enforcement on average 41 times a year. “Federal prosecutors receive at least ten times more criminal referrals than they prosecute,”  noted TRAC.  “Nine out of ten are turned down—that is, closed without filing any prosecution.”

Tamir

Cleveland is in year five of its consent decree with the Justice Department. A federal monitor’s report this summer explained the city and the division of police “consistently raised barriers to information, data and feedback” to the Community Policing Commission.”

Consent decrees are supposed to represent an opportunity to address a pattern and practice of systemic behaviors within police departments. Announced weeks after the killing of Tamir Rice, Cleveland’s current consent decree arose from an investigation initiated in March 2013. 

“The current pattern or practice of constitutional violations is even more troubling because we identified many of these structural deficiencies more than ten years ago during our previous investigation of CDP’s use of force,” read the 2014 report. Although Cleveland’s police department was found to have implemented requested actions by 2005, the 2014 report found the city and the division of police failed to either implement required measures or maintain the measures over time. 

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