Is Cuyahoga Prosecutor Using a Variant of #Ferguson Grand Jury Approach? | #TamirRice, #BlackLivesMatter on Blog#42

The New York Times reports on two new reviews justifying the murder of 12 year old Tamir Rice:

“Those opinions, reached separately by a Colorado prosecutor and a former F.B.I. supervisory special agent, were released Saturday night by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty, whose office will ultimately present evidence in the case to a grand jury to decide on possible criminal charges.

“The question is not whether every officer would have reacted the same way,” Kimberly A. Crawford, the retired F.B.I. agent, wrote in her report, which noted that Officer Loehmann had no way of knowing Tamir’s gun was fake. “Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether a reasonable officer, confronting the exact same scenario under identical conditions could have concluded that deadly force was necessary.”

This nation’s law enforcement personnel all suffer from the same ethics deficiency and disconnect from the people they are supposed protect and serve, as a large section of our ruling class.

Police forces are in place to enforce laws and protect citizens within their purview. In a society that is governed by laws and calls itself moral, that mission must assume that the life of a child, no matter what is in their hands, must come first. Furthermore, that mission must assume that, when presented with a child with a gun, an officer will, from the relative safety of standing behind his police vehicle’s open car door, get that child’s attention first, and attempt to cajole him into putting down the object.

We know, from video of Rice’s murder(included below,) that the entire incident took less than two seconds from the instant Officer Timothy Loehmann‘s car door flew open. Tamir never had a chance. Officer Loehmann never bothered even going through the motions of a) ascertaining that the child posed any threat or b) attempting peaceful resolution of whatever situation he thought was unfolding. Loehmann simply jumps out of his car and shoots to kill, putting Tamir Rice’s life after his own. Nothing that unfolded after that made the situation any better for Loehmann. Attempts to keep Rice alive were stopped when police intervened, and the child just lay there, dying. Family members who were nearby were kept away from their dying loved one, forced to watch helplessly.

It is inconceivable that the two so-called “independent” reviews by two unconnected individuals were randomly commissioned by the Cuyahoga prosecutor. I suspect he had some sense of their general opinions on the use of force involving children. I posit that a female was selected in the belief that, should she testify in person at a grand jury hearing, her views would be more readily accepted based on the public’s assumption that women are kinder and fairer.

But women aren’t kinder and fairer and they are known to have the capacity to hate as much as the next racist man. Indeed, Crawford wrote “Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether a reasonable officer, confronting the exact same scenario under identical conditions could have concluded that deadly force was necessary.” Reasonable? To whom? What if the child had been a white toddler? Would that same logic and justification apply? At what point does a child with a gun in hand go from being a life threat to becoming a child again?

Both reviewers are attorneys. One is a prosecutor in Colorado and the other a retired FBI agent with a degree in jurisprudence. Why wasn’t an ethicist consulted, since the decedent was a child?

“Mr. McGinty said in a statement that his office continued to investigate the case and had invited the Rice family’s lawyers to submit their own expert reports. “We are not reaching any conclusions from these reports,” Mr. McGinty said. “The gathering of evidence continues and the grand jury will evaluate it all.””

With these two reviews, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty achieved two goals for himself:

  1. the affirmation from peers that a police officer is justified in firing a weapon based on a perceived threat even when it is embodied by a child, and
  2. the ability to hide behind a female law enforcement officer’s skirts to justify killing that child.

The Times article makes mention of the fact that these are only two of a number of reports that were commissioned by the Cuyahoga prosecutor and that, as of yet, there is no time table for convening a grand jury. Projecting into the future weeks and months, we are assured of another Ferguson-style document dump on a grand jury of mostly white jurors who do not have the wherewithal to find a legal basis under which to do the moral thing and indict Officer Loehman. We’ve seen variations of this theme in virtually all grand jury proceedings in cases of police brutality. The end result invariably returns no indictment.

In a moral society, there should be no legal justification for the killing of a child. A 12 year old Black male is a child. In a moral society, those who take an oath to serve and protect the public must consciously accept the fact that they serve at their own risk. They must accept the fact that being a police officer means they place their life second and, in the presence of a civilian, armed or unarmed, fire their weapon as a very last resort.

“Both Ms. Crawford and S. Lamar Sims, the prosecutor from Colorado, said in their reports that they were evaluating Officer Loehmann’s actions under the United States Constitution, not Ohio state law.”

In the absence of an amendment or clause in our Constitution that specifically forbids the killing of children by police, we must have the mental elasticity and ethical know-how to take a stand against police officers who murder children.  It takes a high degree of moral depravity and cynicism by way of a pragmatically-challenged approach for two reasonably well-educated lawyers to absolve a colleague of the murder of a child by telling society that good morals and ethics are trumped by what isn’t explicit in our Constitution.

It is my hope that among the demands for reforms by Black Lives Matter is a constitutional amendment that severely limits the circumstances in which officers can use deadly force, along with a set of clear parameters under which police officers may or may not claim of bodily threat to justify use of force. In addition, I urge members of Black Lives Matter to push for a review of hiring practices, including the effects stemming from the legal exclusion of applicants whose IQ is over 125 since a 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the year 2000.

In a January post, I wrote:

“So, when we see headlines announcing “Cleveland police to hand over Tamir Rice probe to county sheriff’s office,” it is exceedingly difficult to trust that the change of agency signifies a change in attitude.

The Cuyahoga Sheriff will now be in charge of investigating this case because, as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson put it, “the decision was made to “ensure transparency” and establish “an extra layer of separation and impartiality.”” Mayor Jackson unwittingly telegraphs the widespread problem with this statement. Many elected leaders and law enforcement officials have established the myth of transparency in their public statements. There is no such thing. Going from city to city, county and state and looking at investigations of police-involved shootings, a preponderance of outcomes end with the exoneration of the officers involved, even in the most obviously egregious cases. These public statements are routinely reported on by the press, verbatim, with few even questioning their accuracy. More alarming is that a sizable portion of the public seems to accept such highly prejudicial reports as fact and further promotes public acceptance of the idea that is is proper for police departments to investigate their own shooting cases.”

I hope the community in Cleveland and Black Lives Matter organize large-scale demonstrations in protest of these underhanded and self-serving tactics by Cuyahoga County, in a clear sign that what happened with the Ferguson grand jury will not be tolerated in Cleveland. The City of Cleveland handed over the investigation of this murder to Cuyahoga County with the promise of a fair and transparent process. We get transparency by way of the Saturday publication of these two reports, and nothing else. Tamir’s last moments on this earth in the videos below remind us just how far removed we are from any semblance of fairness.

Tamir Rice case: 911 call to Cleveland police


Tamir Rice case: Shooting of a 12 year old boy

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