Monday, December 28, 2015

No Charges in a Child's Death

Is anyone responsible for Tamir Rice's death?
The announcement earlier today by Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty that the members of a Cleveland grand jury have declined to indict Cleveland police officer Tim Loehmann for the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice has left many people saddened, but few surprised.

With the news breaking this afternoon, the media will be devoting plenty of time and analysis as to the performance of the prosecutor's office in seeking justice for a child who couldn't testify on his own behalf.

I'll leave it to more learned men and women than I to determine what measure of responsibility CPD officer Loehmann bears for pulling the trigger of his gun less than six seconds after pulling up to the park pavilion in Cleveland where Rice was shot on a snowy day in Cleveland back on November 23, 2014.  

As a New York Times article about the grand jury decision reported earlier today, Cleveland Police chief Calvin Williams insists that the pending results of an as-yet incomplete "administrative review" of the actions of the officer Loehamann and the driver of the cruiser officer Frank Garmback in the incident will determine if any member of the CPD will face charges of any kind for Rice's death.

According to the Times article Chief Williams promised that "We'll look at the incident from start to finish."

But frankly the Cleveland Police Department and the city have had more than a year to conduct internal investigations of its officer's professional conduct with regards to this case, my guess is that if departmental charges were going to be filed they would have already.  

If you were to walk out on the street of any city in America and ask a random person what kind of faith people would place in a police department's own "administrative review" my guess would be very little; if any at all.

It's not possible to get into the minds of the grand jury in this case, and they've obviously made their decision.

Timothy Loehmann
But one thing that I would be curious to know how is just much time the grand jury (who found no grounds for charges) spent reviewing the fact that Timothy Loehmann had been forced to resign from his previous position with the suburban Independence Police Department because of what his former chief Jim Polak called serious "deficiencies" in a report on November 29, 2012 in which he described Loehmann's handgun performance as "dismal".

The deficiencies in performance which Polak reported included "dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress."

It's probably fair to say Loehmann's loss of composure issues were still a serious issue when he shot Tamir Rice two years after that report from the Independence PD was written.

But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Chief Williams' administrative review to cover Loehmann's composure issues.

If this investigation has shown anything, it's that the city of Cleveland and the prosecutor Timothy McGinty are pretty much resigned to doing whatever they can to prove the remarkable legal determination that no one who was actually involved in the shooting of Tamir Rice bears any responsibility for his death.

In the meantime, officers Loehmann and Garmback will remain on "restricted duty" until the completion of the CPD's aforementioned "administrative review".

I hate to be such a cynic about this case, but restricted duty is about as much punishment as Timothy Loehmann is probably going to face for taking the life of a 12-year-old child.

That's just a sad commentary on the state of 21st century policing in America no matter how you look at it.

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