Above the Law

The recently handed down ruling in the photo shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice is just another faux pas in a string of questionable judicial decisions.

It’s both 12-year-old Tamir Rice and his family’s fault that he was shot by questionably sane Officer Timothy Loehmann for waving a pellet gun around, or so the city of Cleveland claims.

The Cleveland Police made so many easily avoidable mistakes here that it’s hard to find where to start. From the get-go, a 911 dispatcher warned that, while Rice was pointing a gun at pedestrians, it was “probably fake.” Tragically, that last part wasn’t relayed to the officers.

When Officer Frank Garmback pulled up to the scene, he drove the police cruiser far too close to Rice. Hubert Williams, former president of the Police Foundation and 30-year police veteran, said, “pulling up to a scene where an individual had a gun is somewhat problematic. … If a guy has a real gun, you’re definitely pulling into the line of fire.” Had Rice been an actual threat, Garmback would have been putting his partner’s life in considerable peril. However, since Rice was not a danger, the close positioning of the cruiser forced an unpredictable Loehmann into a catastrophic confrontation. A farther distance would have given Loehmann the opportunity to communicate with Rice to drop his toy.

Deputy Chief Edward Tomba mentioned in a press conference that Rice made no verbal threats and no physical confrontation occurred. A video of the situation released to the public confirms the latter.

Even more outrageous is that Rice was well within his constitutional rights to carry any sort of gun, toy or not. Ohio is an open-carry state, and Cleveland is not like Chicago, where toy guns are banned in public. There should have been little cause for alarm.

In the end, Rice wasn’t even given a chance. Loehmann fired at him within two seconds of exiting the vehicle. Pulling up to the scene, it’s as if the officer knew he was going to be someone’s judge, jury and executioner, which begs the question: Why is Loehmann on the force to begin with?

In 2012, Loehmann was judged unfit for duty by the Independence Police Department after having an emotional breakdown while handling a firearm.

“His handgun performance was dismal,” Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak said in a training memo. Loehmann had also been rejected from police departments in Parma Heights, Akron and Euclid.

Cops are not bad people. Loehmann, though, is a terrible cop. Officers like him are the reason a significant proportion of the American people take “to protect and to serve” to mean “to seek and destroy,” and that does a great disservice to the men and women in blue who do their jobs properly.

Someone has to be held accountable, but who? The answer should not have been Rice. The city of Cleveland has utterly failed to properly address the grievances of Rice’s family. With the way the law is set up, there is no way to legally punish Loehmann. Still, if there’s any justice in this world, the Cleveland Police Department should immediately demand his resignation.