Cleveland’s Terrible Stain

NY Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD DEC. 29, 2015

Tamir Rice of Cleveland would be alive today had he been a white 12-year-old playing with a toy gun in just about any middle-class neighborhood in the country on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014.

But Tamir, who was shot to death by a white police officer that day, had the misfortune of being black in a poor area of Cleveland, where the police have historically behaved as an occupying force that shoots first and asks questions later. To grow up black and male in such a place is to live a highly circumscribed life, hemmed in by forces that deny your humanity and conspire to kill you.

Those forces hovered over the proceedings on Monday when a grand jury declined to indict Officer Timothy Loehmann in the killing and Timothy McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, explained why he had asked the grand jurors to not bring charges. Mr. McGinty described the events leading up to Tamir’s death as tragic series of errors and “miscommunications” that began when a 911 caller said a male who was “probably a juvenile” was waving a “probably fake” gun at people in a park.

The fact that those caveats never reached Officer Loehmann — who shot the child within seconds of arriving on the scene — was more than just an administrative misstep. It reflects an utter disregard for the lives of the city’s black residents. That disregard pervades every aspect of this case and begins with the fact that the department failed to even review Officer Loehmann’s work history before giving him the power of life and death over the citizens of Cleveland. Had the department done so, it would have found that Officer Loehmann had quit a suburban police department where he had showed a “dangerous loss of composure” during firearms training and was found to be emotionally unfit for the stress of the job.

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