Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Objectively Reasonable?

Buster the cat ponders the Democratic debate
It was my plan earlier this evening to head over to watch the Democratic presidential debate with some liberal minded friends but after getting caught out in the thunderous downpour that hit parts of central New Jersey around 7pm, I changed my mind.

Since the post-debate media coverage of the debate will be exhaustive, I decided to sit in front of my lap top and get some work done while following The New York Times live play-by-play of the debate on my Kindle with my trusty cat Buster.

Like me, Buster (pictured left) is still wondering if Senator Bernie Sanders can appeal to a wider mainstream American electorate.

Before I get back to scanning the post-debate analysis online, I just wanted to share a few observations on the results of the Tamir Rice investigation summary findings that were released late Saturday night. 

Like millions of other people who've followed this tragic case of injustice since 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland Police officer Timothy Loehmann just before Thanksgiving back on November 21, 2014, I'm starting to get an uncomfortably familiar feeling about the course this investigation is taking.

As you've likely heard by now, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office released the controversial results of two separate investigations by use-of-force experts S. Lamar Sims and Kimberly Crawford which suggest that Loehmann's shooting of Rice was "objectively reasonable".

Prosecutor? Or cop defender? Timothy McGinty
Members of Rice's family, activists, protesters and people around the globe who've followed this case with interest since last year are expressing widespread concern that the leaked investigation results are an indicator that Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty (pictured left) is using the same kind of sleazy back-door tactics used in the prosecution of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown.

Thanks to the efforts (or appalling lack thereof) of prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch, a man with deep ties to the Ferguson PD whose father was killed in the line of duty when McCulloch was 12-years old, the St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Wilson on any charges whatsoever in the death of Michael Brown.

The decision of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office to release these findings suggests they are following the same strategy as McCulloch did; they're essentially planning to exonerate Timothy Loehmann of any wrong doing in the death of an innocent child.

Now I don't think anyone would suggest that the Cleveland Police Department didn't have good reason to be cautious after responding to a 911 call about someone in Cudell Park pointing a gun at people.

But the caller told the police dispatcher TWICE that he thought the gun "was probably fake" and that the person pointing it was likely a juvenile. Even though the CPD claims the dispatcher never relayed that info to the two officers who responded to the scene, does that still make Loehmann's decision to shoot Rice "objectively reasonable"?

According to a detailed breakdown of the incident on Wikipedia:

"A surveillance video without audio of the shooting was released by police on November 26 after pressure from the public and the child's family. It showed Rice pacing around the park, occasionally extending his right arm with what could be a gun in his hand, talking on a cellphone, and sitting at a picnic table in a gazebo. The video shows a patrol car driving at a high rate of speed across the park lawn and then stopping abruptly by the gazebo. Loehmann then jumps out of the car and immediately shoots Rice from a distance of less than 10 feet (3.0 m). According to Judge Ronald B. Adrine in a judgment entry on the case "this court is still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly.... On the video the zone car containing Patrol Officers Loehmann and Garmback is still in the process of stopping when Rice is shot." 

Are those actions "objectively reasonable"? Doesn't sound like the judge thought they were.

Personally, I thought The Field Negro was spot on in his blog post last Sunday when he contrasted the reactions by police in San Diego to a report of a man waving a gun in a public area, to the actions taken by Cleveland police officers Loehmann and Garmback (who was driving).

As TFN observed, when San Diego PD responded to a disturbed man waving a gun in a public place, they spent over an hour negotiating with him to try and get him to lay down his weapon, until one (or more) of the officers were forced to shoot and wound him.

Loehmann essentially pulled out his gun and shot Rice at point blank range even while the car was still moving.

Now I am not a use-of-force expert, so I can't debate the conclusions of S. Lamar Sims and Kimberly Crawford; two individuals who have far more knowledge of law enforcement training and tactics than I do.

But I'm not the only one who finds it odd that their investigation of the Rice shooting finds that Loehamann's actions were "objectively reasonable" even though his past record as a police officer not only showed him to be incompetent, but a former supervisor noted that he displayed "dismal handgun performance."

It's late and I have to be up early, but if you want to read over some more details about just what kind of cop Timothy Loehmann was, check out my blog post from December 4, 2014 - before he joined the CPD, this guy had literally been fired from the Cleveland Independent Police Department because he was incompetent. 

As MSNBC reported back in 2014, Loehhmann's former Deputy Chief of the Independence PD Jim Polak wrote of Loehmann:

“Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not believe Ptl. Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment,” Polak wrote on Nov. 29. “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies.”  

Loehmann resigned five days after that report was written and Polak's observation proved to be uncannily accurate.

Timothy Loehmann
Loehmann (pictured left) showed poor judgment when he was with the Independence PD as he did when he pulled up to the pavilion area and shot a kid at point blank range.

Did the Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty and S. Lamar Sims and Kimberly Crawford (the two use-of-force experts he hired to investigate the case) simply decide Loehmann's dismal record as a police officer prior to joining the CPD was not relevant?

How in good conscience could the prosecutor read that evaluation of Timothy Loehamann's performance as an officer and still agree that his decision to take out his weapon and kill a 12-year old with a plastic toy gun on November 21, 2014 was "objectively reasonable"?

Sadly, it sounds like Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty is acting in the interests of the city of Cleveland to prevent Rice's family from suing the city for millions as he also acts to protect a totally incompetent police officer from being held responsible for his actions.

The anniversary of the case is coming up in November, so we're sure to see more extensive media coverage of how the case plays out.

But for now, prosecutor Timothy McGinty is giving every indication that the city of Cleveland is planning to reinforce an unwritten rule that, regardless of the circumstances, using deadly force on someone with dark skin in this country is "objectively reasonable" for members of U.S. law enforcement.

Every. Single. Time.

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