AMERICA’S POLICE: PROTECTORS OR THREAT?

Posted November 30, 2015 on 5:53 pm | In the category Terrorism, U.S. Domestic Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

On November 22, 2014, 12 year-old Tamir Rice made the mistake of playing with a toy gun at a playground in my old hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. A citizen called 911 to report that there was a person in the playground with what looked like a gun. Said citizen also told the dispatcher that the person might be a juvenile and that the gun might not be real. The police rolled into action with only the first part of that information, drove their car into the playground, opened the door and in the time you count one, one-hundred, two one-hundred Tamir Rice was shot, bleeding to death on the ground. The two cops stood around watching while Tamir said goodbye to his chance for a teenage birthday. When his 14 year-old sister arrived and tried to approach Tamir the cops forced her to the ground, handcuffed her and locked her in the backseat of the patrol car. The shooter was a white rookie cop who had flunked a Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Deputy exam (46%, when 70% is a passing grade), had been refused employment at several neighboring towns’ police departments, had been terminated after 5 months for poor performance at another neighboring police department, and then hired by Cleveland’s PD without a proper background check.

A year later Tamir’s family waits for justice. The prosecutor hired three outsiders to investigate and report on the incident and as in almost every incident of police abuse, the reports said that while tragic, the policeman’s action were “reasonable”. Tamir’s family hired their own experts (two separate California former police officials) whose reports are highly critical of the policemen – both the shooter and his colleague, or accomplice. A sidebar to the story emerged that an off-duty FBI agent appeared on the scene while Tamir was dying and administered first aid while the two cops stood around either bewildered, or just uncaring.

So- a year after Tamir’s death a grand jury continues to consider evidence. Perhaps justice will be done, but precedence is not a cause for optimism. The dice are almost always loaded in cases involving police killing citizens; there is always some real or imagined or made-up threat. For Tamir it is that he was reaching for his “gun” so the policeman had to shoot him in less than 2 seconds after arriving.

This is only one example of what may have been an historic epidemic of white policemen shooting black males regardless of age or real threat. Much of the current public awareness results from the ubiquitous presence of videos. And the judicial system seems to have been unable to address these incidents impartially, often now in the face of overwhelming eyewitness or video evidence. Currently there are at least three high visibility cases in various stages of potential or actual prosecution. In addition to the Tamir Rice case there is the matter of 17 year-old Laquan McDonald, shot by a police officer 16 times in Chicago, mostly in the back and mostly while lying on the street, and Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died while being transported to jail by Baltimore police. The Rice and McDonald cases are being presented to Grand Juries; the Freddie Gray case is being prosecuted in court in Baltimore after a Grand jury confirmed prosecution charges. These cases are tests of the American judicial system, but in a broader sense are tests of America’s basic values of judicial equity and fairness.

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