Do Black Lives Matter?

Melissa Harris-Perry noted over the weekend that a lot of protesters in Ferguson and elsewhere have been chanting, “Black lives matter.” The MSNBC host asked the question: Do they? Do black lives matter?

Well, do they?

By now you have seen all or parts of the video in which 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an Africa-American boy who had been playing in a Cleveland park on November 22, was gunned down by a police officer.

The sixth-grader, besides smashing snowballs with his feet, had been playing in the park with a cheap Airsoft pistol, essentially a toyish gun that, minus its orange safety cap, from a distance looked like the real thing, even if Tamir Rice didn’t look like a real adult. Shooting: On Sunday, Tamir's father, Gregory Henderson, said the youngster had his whole life ahead of him when he was gunned down outside Cudell Recreation Center. Above, the BB gun that Tamir was carryingThe cop who shot him had been on the force for only a short time, just over eight months. His partner, who was driving the car and who pulled right up next to Rice, was 46 and had been with the force since 2008.

A concerned citizen at the park had called 911 and told the dispatcher that someone, “probably a juvenile,” was pointing a gun at people, even though the caller thought the gun might be “fake.” In response to the dispatcher’s inquiry, the caller identified the gun-wielding kid as black. By the time word got out to the cops on patrol, the part about the juvenile and the part about the potentially fake gun got lost. Responding officers were essentially looking for a black male with a dangerous weapon who was threatening people with it, and since young black males are 21 times more likely to get shot by the police than young white males, no one should be surprised that Tamir Rice is now dead.

According to Cleveland police, after arriving at the park where the boy was sitting on a picnic table in a gazebo, it took the rookie cop less than two seconds to shoot the kid when he approached their car. “Shots fired. Male down, black male, maybe 20, black hand gun,” one of the cops tells a dispatcher. Rice never had a chance to explain to officers that he was, presumably, just doing what many boys, including myself, have done: pretending to shoot the bad guys with a pretend gun. And the boy never received immediate first aid from either of the responding officers. A detective and an FBI agent arrived on the scene some four minutes later and tried to save him. He died the next day in the hospital.

The policeman who fired the deadly shots is 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann. He has a degree in Criminology/Sociology and had completed law enforcement training at the local police academy. According to one report,

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said he spoke to Loehmann and said he ‘is broken up about this’ and ‘didn’t want to do this, but had to protect himself’.

I hope all of us can understand that cops have a legitimate right to protect themselves. They should get to come home at the end of a day’s work just like anyone else. But it seems to be the case that when it comes to the police, especially the white police, the response when encountering a black suspect is to aggressively act first and then figure out what is going on later. We have to ask ourselves why that is and, more important, what we should do about it. It might be a way of affirming that, indeed, black lives matter.

Are police trained to shoot first and ask questions later, when it comes to black males? Putting aside what happened in Ferguson—and putting aside what happened in Nevada earlier this year when a group of white people with guns took aim at federal agents, doing so with impunity—there are plenty of examples of this shoot-first mentality in practice, if not in theory. Here are just a few:

♦ In August police in Ohio shot and killed John Crawford in a Walmart. Crawford was a 26-year-old African-American. He was walking around the store, talking to the mother of his kids on his cell phone, while carrying an air rifle that the store sold. Police responded to the scene as a result of a 911 call from a citizen who exaggerated Crawford’s actions. When police confronted Crawford, they started yelling and shooting at him at about the same time. He had no chance to tell them what was going on.

Neither of the two officers involved in that shooting were indicted by a grand jury even though a video from a surveillance camera clearly showed how hastily the officers acted.

In July, police in New York City killed Eric Garner on the sidewalk by placing him in a deadly chokehold, a move that is banned by the NYPD. Garner’s crime was selling untaxed cigarettes, which apparently is a capital offense on Staten Island. The officer accused of killing the unarmed father of six testified before a grand jury ten days ago and a decision is expected next month. A video of that deadly incident is also available, otherwise it is quite likely there would have been no grand jury at all, since police accounts of such incidents are always designed to protect and serve the police.

♦ A dash cam video from the car of a former South Carolina state trooper showed us all what might happen if a black male is stopped for a seat belt violation in that state: he might get shot. Fortunately, 35-year-old African-American Levar Jones lived to tell about his September encounter with a white cop, Sean Groubert. Jones was merely retrieving his wallet, in response to a command from Groubert to get his license, and for that he was yelled at and then shot. In this case, the trooper has actually been charged with “assault and battery of a high and aggregated nature.” Comparing the video evidence to what Groubert said about the incident clearly shows the officer’s self-serving account was an attempt to cover up his panicked behavior.

Which brings us back to Tamir Rice.

Here’s the way The New York Times reported on the Cleveland Police Department’s explanation of why the 12-year-old was killed:

The police said the officer yelled at Tamir three times to show his hands, but the boy instead reached to his waistband for the object, which turned out to be a fake gun.

Well, maybe all that can happen in less than two seconds, but I have serious doubts. It is more likely that a rookie cop did what so many other white cops have done when it comes to black males: shoot first and then appeal to the public, the white public, for understanding later.

In the mean time, the hunt for dirt on or around the Cleveland sixth grader has begun. How about this headline:

Tamir Rice’s father has history of domestic violence

Or this one:

Lawyer representing Tamir Rice’s family defended boy’s mom in drug trafficking case

The publisher of those two articles, Northeast Ohio Media Group, defended the effort to dig into the background of Tamir’s family this way:

In a city where…police are quick to resort to force, a 12-year-old randomly aiming a gun in a public place is in mortal danger. One way to stop police from killing any more 12-year-olds might be to understand the forces that lead children to undertake behavior that could put them in the sights of police guns. 

So our reporters at NEOMG have been looking into Tamir’s background, to see if he lived a life exposed to violence that could explain why it might be normal for him to randomly aim what looks like a real gun in a public place.

I suppose there could be a special “background” reason why Tamir Rice was playing with a non-lethal gun in public, something I did as a kid countless times, even if it was unwise of Tamir to point it at strangers. Maybe it is the case that revealing the “criminal records involving violence” of his two parents will “shed further light on why this 12 year old was waving a weapon around a public park.” But what it won’t do, what it can’t possibly do, is shed further light on why it is that to be black in this country, even in this the 21st century, means that even sixth grade African-American students had better be careful how they spend their play time.

So, do black lives matter? Yes, they matter. Even the life of a little boy whose parents weren’t necessarily the best role models, a naive kid who apparently trusted the police enough to approach them without fear, a misplaced trust that cost him his life.

_________________________

The following is the entire available video of Tamir’s last minutes on earth. His family approved the release of the video so that the public could see the actions of the officers involved. The family has also asked “for the community to remain calm,” and they want to use the emotions associated with this tragedy “in a way that will contribute to positive efforts and solutions that bring change to Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and cities across the nation as it relates to how law enforcement officials interact with citizens of color.” 

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64 Comments

  1. One big problem here is the proliferation of guns in America. In the 1950s, police did not have to wonder whether every citizen they passed on the street might be carrying a gun. They knew they were the only ones with guns. People who believe the 2nd amendment means no restrictions on carrying arms will not agree, but NRA supporters are to a large extent responsible for this. The police now have to assume that it is likely that whoever they are confronting probably has a gun.
    As to the related tragedy in Ferguson, MO, I believe the protesters who are chanting that they want Officer Wilson are after the wrong guy. They should be demanding Prosecutor McCulloch. The wrong guy resigned. (I don’t know whether Wilson’s actions were justified; we never will.)
    And I think Chris Lehmann is one of the few writers who have got it right:
    An excerpt from his Al Jazeera column:
    Grand juries are not empowered to settle the momentous question of guilt or innocence, or finer-grained matters of motive, opportunity and state of mind. They’re only charged with establishing probably cause for a trial to proceed — to indict, rather than to exonerate or convict, a prospective criminal defendant.
    This was the howling, first-order procedural abuse that permitted all the other, kindred trespasses of this inquiry to disfigure the routine operations of the legal system in the killing of Michael Brown. Since they’re formal path-clearing inquiries, grand juries typically don’t hear the testimony of more than a handful of witnesses. McCulloch, by contrast, called 60 witnesses, who testified for more than 70 hours. Wilson alone testified without cross-examination for four hours — an unheard-of span of time for a prospective defendant, even in a police murder inquiry. Likewise, grand-jury proceedings in any criminal case rarely go beyond a day or two — but McCulloch kept this body empaneled for more than 100 days.
    … These are not the actions of a dispassionate public official …They are, rather, the frantic efforts of an interested party focused intently on attaining a cop-clearing outcome.

    Immediately after the shooting, McCulloch was asked to recuse himself. He declined. He could have simply charged Wilson at the scene, and allowed the case to go to trial, which would have allowed cross-examination of Wilson’s testimony.

    Well, Al Jazeera. Lehmann gets it right.

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    • Helen,

      You wrote, “The police now have to assume that it is likely that whoever they are confronting probably has a gun.” You are right that the NRA is largely, but not completely, responsible for that reality and, thus, its supporters bear some responsibility for what we see.

      I also agree with you about the targeting of protests related to the killing of Michael Brown. We will apparently never know what really happened in the case because of McCulloch, who, from the start, wasn’t interested in even entertaining the idea of prosecuting the cop involved. His conduct, including the conduct of his two assistants who presented the case to the grand jury, is what the focus should be on at this point because there is little ambiguity in the biased way his office went about this whole thing. He essentially tried the case before the grand jury, and was free to present it in such a way that not only guaranteed the result we saw, but also helped convince the white public that Wilson’s actions were completely justifiable.

      By the way, even though I’m a Democrat who voted for Democratic Governor Nixon twice, he could have forced McCulloch off the case. He didn’t because he tends to be pro-law enforcement in nearly every instance. He deserves much of the blame for the McCulloch debacle.

      Duane

      Like

  2. King Beauregard

     /  December 2, 2014

    This is one case where I come down squarely on the side of police. The police don’t know, they can’t know, what happens next when the other guy is reaching for a gun. So the police really have no choice but to either shoot first, or risk becoming a martyr.

    I maintain that it makes no difference whether the kid was white or black in this particular case; the defining moment is where the kid seems to be reaching for the gun, and at that moment, not even white privilege will save a person.

    I feel terrible for this poor kid, who probably had no grasp of how deadly serious the police take guns. I feel terrible for his family and friends, who are grieving. But I also feel terrible for the responding officers, who I am quite certain would much rather have not shot anybody that day.

    I’ve listened to the police dispatch on this. The dispatcher did indeed drop the detail about it “probably” being a toy gun, and merely described it as a gun. The dispatcher also said the other police were tied up on other calls at the time. I’ve heard a lot of 20/20 hindsight on this, about how the police should have cordoned off the area (all two of them), how they should have sat a good distance away and simply waited (for what exactly?), how driving up quickly as they did was a mistake (as if a leisurely walk over open ground would have been smarter). But as I see it, the police were about two seconds away from resolving this with no fatalities … except the kid, the poor kid, had to go reaching for the gun at the last second, and put the police in that worst of binds.

    As a side note, on November 6, there was another news story how literally across the street from this park, there was a group of teens (one reportedly with a gun) robbing people at the train station. In Cleveland, it is not unthinkable that a teenager will have a gun.

    Like

    • King B,

      To address some of your contentions addressed to me and others:

      You wrote,

      This kid was harmless, he didn’t know what was going to happen next, but the police had no way of knowing they weren’t in danger either.

      I’ve thought about this a lot, as you might expect. Of course the police had no way of knowing they weren’t in danger. That’s the point. They put themselves, unnecessarily in this case, in danger, or perceived danger. A police spokesman was asked the question why did the cops pull right up to that spot instead of some distance away? Why, if they believed a black male was armed and dangerous, didn’t they proceed from a safer distance? That’s a damned good question and one that has yet to be answered. You asked what they might have waited for? That’s easy: evaluate what was happening. Figure out what the next move might be. Is that too much to ask? The kid (or even the perceived black man) was sitting on a picnic table, for God’s sake. How much training does it take to just drive right up and start shooting within two seconds? If that’s the extent of police training, God help us. These aren’t war zones. These are public spaces.

      These officers’ actions can be judged, whether after the fact or not, whether by a non-law enforcement professional or not, as patently unwise, both in terms of the officer’s own safety, as well as the safety of the “subject” and other people in the area, who were all put at risk by what happened.

      Also: without knowing there was surveillance video, the cops reportedly initially said the kid was sitting with a group of people. That was obviously not true. They also said they told Tamir three times to raise up his hands. That is hard to believe, given the time interval between the car pulling up, the door opening, the cop shooting as he exited. When you consider that a lie was told about that group of people supposedly with Tamir, I am not inclined to believe that the boy was told three times to get his hands up, loudspeaker or no loudspeaker. Sorry. (And besides that, if they were going to use a loudspeaker to shout commands, why didn’t they do so from a safer distance, at least to assess the situation?)

      Finally, of course it goes to far in saying that this is a murder. I don’t know anyone who truly thinks that this rookie officer got up that morning with the intent to shoot anyone, much less a 12-year-old kid. But it appears fairly obvious that this is bad police work, the kind of bad police work that seems to victimize black men at a disturbing frequency, in this case a perceived black man, since Tamir Rice was still in elementary school.

      Duane

      Liked by 1 person

      • King Beauregard

         /  December 2, 2014

        “They put themselves, unnecessarily in this case, in danger, or perceived danger. A police spokesman was asked the question why did the cops pull right up to that spot instead of some distance away?”

        My read on that is, they were closing with Tamir as quickly as they could, to stop him nonviolently, quickly, and decisively. Hop out of the car, shove him against the car, and sort it out.

        “Why, if they believed a black male was armed and dangerous, didn’t they proceed from a safer distance? That’s a damned good question and one that has yet to be answered.”

        At some point, they were going to have to close with the suspect. Someone has a gun, there are three options: either you can persuade them to assume a safe position from a distance (say, shouting over a loudspeaker), or you can physically restrain them (within arm’s reach), or you can open fire. I think the cops were going for #2, and may have done #1 first.

        “You asked what they might have waited for? That’s easy: evaluate what was happening. Figure out what the next move might be. Is that too much to ask? The kid (or even the perceived black man) was sitting on a picnic table, for God’s sake.”

        Suppose it had been a real gun, and Tamir had shot someone while the police were waiting for a clear indication of what their next step should be. Would that have been better?

        “How much training does it take to just drive right up and start shooting within two seconds?”

        For Pete’s sake, are you going to be another of those people who tries to redact out the key piece of the puzzle, that the kid reached for his gun? When a suspect of any age or color does that, it doesn’t matter how well or poorly the police behaved prior to that moment; from that moment on, it has turned into a kill-or-be-killed moment from the police’s perspective.

        And since we’re going there: how much sense does it make to pull a gun on the police if it’s NOT a real gun? I can think of one reason to pull a real gun, but zero reasons to pull a toy gun. So if we’re going by training, the very fact that he was pulling a gun was grounds to assume it was real.

        “If that’s the extent of police training, God help us. These aren’t war zones. These are public spaces.”

        Not sure what to tell you about that; for all my life it’s been common knowledge that tragedies ensue if police don’t know if your gun is real. I was taught that as a kid. I’ve seen it mentioned on “COPS”. I once saw it in an old Dick Tracy Crimestopper’s Notebook, so that puts it as far back as the 1950s. This is not a new problem.

        Like

        • I can see we are not going to agree on much if anything about this case.

          You’re salient point seems to be that Tamir “reached for his gun” and the cop shot him assuming the gun was real. Yes, assuming he was in fact reaching for his gun, we all agree that is what happened. But you continue to discount the fact that the reason it went down that way is because of the behavior of the professionally-trained cops, not the actions of an elementary school kid, who may have seen the cops coming from a distance and was walking out to see what all the fuss was about. Who knows.

          You also don’t account for this, as the Plain Dealer pointed out:

          The police said two officers, responding to a 9-1-1 call, went to the park and saw Tamir take what they thought was a pistol from a table under a gazebo in the park and stuff it in his waistband. Police said that the boy was sitting with a group at the time.

          Now, if that is what happened, we have zero reason to believe anything these cops said about subsequent events, including that they warned him three times to put his hands up. If it hadn’t been for that video, which they were likely unaware existed, the story may have morphed into a “gang” scenario, who knows. The point is that if they lied about the gazebo scene, they may have lied about the warnings.

          But even if they were telling the truth about the three warnings, my initial point stands: it was their seemingly reckless behavior that caused this tragedy and not the actions of a kid.

          Liked by 1 person

          • King Beauregard

             /  December 2, 2014

            Fair enough, I’ll concede that we don’t have much reason to trust that three warnings were sounded, or even one for that matter.

            “But you continue to discount the fact that the reason it went down that way is because of the behavior of the professionally-trained cops, not the actions of an elementary school kid, who may have seen the cops coming from a distance and was walking out to see what all the fuss was about. Who knows.”

            I more than discount it, I reject it altogether. I simply don’t see a “therefore” fitting in between “cop car comes screaming in” and “kid reaches for a toy gun”. I think there’s a temptation to put one there because then this whole mess adopts a comfortable cause-and-effect structure, but I don’t see that it works that way. Try as I might, I can’t see pulling a gun as a probable response to a cop car racing my direction, especially a gun that I know can’t blow out a tire or whatever else I might have in mind.

            Like

            • Hmm. We don’t yet know the kid pulled the gun, do we? I can’t tell what he was doing in that grainy video to tell you the truth. On that point, we again have to trust the police, who aren’t exactly trustworthy in this case, if the Plain Dealer is right about the initial reports. Maybe the subsequent investigation will make it clear.

              As far as cause and effect, you are right that I tend to adopt that mode of thinking because, despite its philosophical problems, it seems to be the only practical way to live in and make sense of this world. Whether there is or isn’t a technically rational causal link between the rashness of these two officers and a dead Tamir Rice, my common sense tells me that if they would have not rushed the kid, he would still be alive.

              And since rushing the kid was only one option out of other more prudent ones, I conclude that it was that action that is to blame for what happened, even if that action wasn’t deliberate or malicious.

              Duane

              Like

              • King Beauregard

                 /  December 2, 2014

                “As far as cause and effect, you are right that I tend to adopt that mode of thinking because, despite its philosophical problems, it seems to be the only practical way to live in and make sense of this world.”

                That is how we tend to process things, true, but that doesn’t mean that perceived cause and effect is actual cause and effect. If I still had my cognitive psychology book from 1985, I could find the term for this, where the brain scrambles to put a “because” in between a thing that happened and some event (ANY event) preceding it.

                “Whether there is or isn’t a technically rational causal link between the rashness of these two officers and a dead Tamir Rice, my common sense tells me that if they would have not rushed the kid, he would still be alive.”

                Be honest, though: your “common sense” is at least partially informed by how things had worked out tragically.

                Like

                • Okay, I’ll be honest. Yes, my common sense conclusion is somewhat informed by the result in this case. I don’t like it when a kid playing in a park is shot. I’ll admit that and admit that the tragedy colors my thinking to some unknown degree.

                  But let’s say there was a different result. Let’s say that Tamir shot the cop and killed him, after the two cops rushed (unnecessarily rushed, as I contend) across the grass to the gazebo. My common sense would still conclude that the cops’ actions were dangerous and misguided, even as I conceded that in that particular case Tamir was to blame for the death.

                  Thus, the common denominator in those two polar opposite outcomes is the rush to the gazebo, an action that I just don’t see as warranted at the time, even if it might have been at some future time. Evaluation was necessary and the police did not give themselves time to evaluate.

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                  • King Beauregard

                     /  December 2, 2014

                    Now suppose the police had prudently dawdled, and in that time Tamir had shot an innocent bystander. The cops would then probably have had to shoot Tamir from a distance, and your common sense might well be screaming that the cops should have rushed him and pinned him to the ground when they had the chance — a couple bruises but zero fatalities rather than two.

                    Like

                    • Come on. I think you know better than that. The two situations aren’t the same at all. The police frequently wait to assess a situation, which by the nature of the case places potential victims of a shooter in danger. Think about a hostage situation in a bank robbery, for instance. An assessment has to be made whether rushing in to rescue the hostages is more dangerous than waiting it out and talking to the perpetrators. If they chose to wait it out in that situation and a hostage died, no reasonable person would blame the police for waiting a bit while they may have tried to, say, negotiate with the gunman. So, no, my common sense wouldn’t be screaming in that situation, unless, of course, the cops were in the donut shop while a deadly Tamir was shooting people.

                      Like

                    • King Beauregard

                       /  December 3, 2014

                      You saw on the video how Tamir was taking out his gun every now and again and pointing it at things, right?

                      Like

                    • Yeah, of course I did. Reminded me of all the countless hours I spent as a kid, playing Army by myself (I was a big fan of the show “Combat”), with a toy gun.

                      Like

                    • King Beauregard

                       /  December 3, 2014

                      So it’s not at all unthinkable that, while the cops were sitting back, they could have seen Tamir point the gun at someone and have a hard choice to make. This could have gone down badly in a number of ways, not just the way it did.

                      Side note — what the hell were Vic Morrow and company doing just sort of wandering around Europe? D-Day happened and there was a unified push from the Atlantic to Berlin, but the “Combat!” guys seemed to meander aimlessly.

                      Like

              • King Beauregard

                 /  December 2, 2014

                And …

                “Hmm. We don’t yet know the kid pulled the gun, do we? I can’t tell what he was doing in that grainy video to tell you the truth.”

                I suppose we don’t know. What nobody anywhere seems to be questioning, though, was that the police had reason to believe he was pulling a gun or was at least reaching for it.

                Like

  3. King Beauregard

     /  December 2, 2014

    About this:

    “The police said the officer yelled at Tamir three times to show his hands, but the boy instead reached to his waistband for the object, which turned out to be a fake gun.”

    My guess is, the police car was equipped with a loudspeaker (they’re probably universal these days), and they used the loudspeaker to call the kid before they drove up or as they were driving up. I base this guess on: if you were a policeman and there was a gun situation, wouldn’t you use the loudspeaker? Of course you would; it’s what anyone would do.

    Like

    • Ben Field

       /  December 2, 2014

      How anyone can support the police shooting a 12 year old like a rabid dog escapes me. If the loudspeaker was used, why not stop 50+ yards away to demand compliance? It’s certainly beyond the accuracy range of most pistol shooters. It wasn’t dark, this was not a shoot or die situation for the officers, a rookie and a veteran, had they tried to control the situation instead of going in guns blazing. What has happened to common sense in police response from dispatch to officer that omissions of pertinent information result in a child’s death? Now they want to paint this child as a street thug raised by dope fiends while his only crime was being born black. I could understand the officer being over zealous in a dark alley, but there was nobody near the kid, and if the officers has used professional judgement the death penalty could and should have been avoided.

      Like

      • King Beauregard

         /  December 2, 2014

        “How anyone can support the police shooting a 12 year old like a rabid dog escapes me.”

        Invalid comparison: a rabid dog can’t make like he’s reaching for a gun.

        Honestly, I’ve had this argument several times on the Internet in various places, and the anti-cop side (not pro-Tamir, but anti-cop) invariably goes way the hell out of their way to ignore the fact that the poor kid was reaching for a gun. The police only shot after that happened, because as soon as you reach for a gun, they have no choice. This kid was harmless, he didn’t know what was going to happen next, but the police had no way of knowing they weren’t in danger either. Even the presence or absence of the orange tip was irrelevant because the gun was in the kid’s pants where the cops couldn’t see.

        “I could understand the officer being over zealous in a dark alley, but there was nobody near the kid, and if the officers has used professional judgement the death penalty could and should have been avoided.”

        To be sure, the police made a couple mistakes here. In retrospect, the first thing the cops should have done is instructed the kid to lie face down on the ground; if the kid had complied, that would have all but eliminated the chance of things going fatal. And the failure of the responding officers to provide first aid is inexcusable. But whatever mistakes you feel the cops made before or after the shooting (and there’s nobody better at armchair policing than people with zero police experience of any kind), the shooting itself was a foregone conclusion as soon as the kid pulled the gun.

        “Death penalty” LOL. When adults make like they’re going to pull a gun on policemen, we call it “suicide by cop”, that’s how well understood the police response is.

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        • Ben Field

           /  December 2, 2014

          “To be sure, the police made a couple mistakes here. In retrospect, the first thing the cops should have done is instructed the kid to lie face down on the ground; if the kid had complied, that would have all but eliminated the chance of things going fatal. And the failure of the responding officers to provide first aid is inexcusable”.
          Even with real time video showing the cops firing their weapons immediately on arrival, you still believe the kid had enough time to recognize officers and comply before being shot to death. You say they gave him instructions over the bullhorn thus justifying the immediate shooting. Why couldn’t they have done this 50 yards away as he was not any threat to others or themselves at that distance. I’m not anti-cop, my brother is a Texas State trooper, and agrees that those two officers are what he referred to as “cowboys” and that he would have approached the situation with caution, not sliding their car up to the boy with guns blazing as they exited the vehicle. “Suicide by cop” is all to often used to explain the mistakes made by officers in handling stressful incidents. Not all officers will participate in a “blue wall” when children are killed. Both officers should be limited to desk duty if they are unable to discern a real threat from their fear of a black child with a toy.

          Like

          • King Beauregard

             /  December 2, 2014

            “Even with real time video showing the cops firing their weapons immediately on arrival, you still believe the kid had enough time to recognize officers and comply before being shot to death.”

            I see him reaching for his gun. Why don’t you see that?

            Actually I know why you don’t: because processing that would complicate this story for you in ways you don’t like.

            “Both officers should be limited to desk duty if they are unable to discern a real threat from their fear of a black child with a toy.”

            I say this in all seriousness to you: if you think you possess the sort of keen awareness that can distinguish between a realistic toy gun and a real one in the fraction of a second that your life is potentially on the line, then you have a moral obligation to join the police yourself and show us all how it’s done. Otherwise more children will die and you could have saved them. If, on the other hand, you’re just blowing smoke, that’s about what I expected.

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            • Ben Field

               /  December 2, 2014

              This was not a “fraction of a second” situation, this could have been de-escalated from fifty yards away and you know it. Build a blue wall if you like, but don’t ask me to buy it.

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              • King Beauregard

                 /  December 2, 2014

                Maybe could have been de-escalated, maybe not. Obviously what the cops did led to a fatality, so in retrospect it’s entirely clear that they couldn’t have done much worse with another course of action. But what the police need is someone like you who is guaranteed to get it right the first time. Someone with your keen, nearly supernatural analytic skills, that can distinguish a toy gun from a real one no matter the circumstances: in a fraction of a second up close, or from 50 yards away.

                This isn’t about blue walls, this is about the fact that police work is a hell of a lot harder than watching videos after the fact and declaring what should have been done. I say that rushing the kid nearly worked, and the only reason it didn’t is that he reached for his gun at the last second.

                So, you know the hundreds of articles written about the Tamir Rice video and how they all say that it doesn’t look like Tamir was reaching for his gun? Just kidding, there’s not a single article that makes that claim, none that I can find anyway. To the police officers and to all the world, it looked like Tamir was reaching for a gun. That is the most central fact of this story; that is why the boy died. Blame the police if you like, but if you feel your perception is keener than theirs, you owe it to the world to use your powers in the service of society.

                Like

                • Ben Field

                   /  December 2, 2014

                  This is not a matter of a lack of “keen” senses, this is a lack of common sense. Do you think the South Carolina trooper justified in shooting the black man when her reached for his wallet after the cop requested ID? The courts don’t, he is facing charges and so should be these two officers. They should have had the common sense to place their vehicle between them and the child and demanded he put the toy down. They have marksman training and surely could have taken him down had he had an actual weapon instead of a toy. The child might have been reaching to place the toy on the ground, if the cops were not face to face with him, he might still be alive. But they have a tough job, so killing a child or a motorist trying to comply is just a regrettable incident.? BS, put them at a desk so they can pay the civil lawsuit if no charges are brought. Can you admit these officer’s actions were based on fear and not common sense?

                  Like

                • King B,

                  I had to reread this:

                  But what the police need is someone like you who is guaranteed to get it right the first time. Someone with your keen, nearly supernatural analytic skills, that can distinguish a toy gun from a real one no matter the circumstances: in a fraction of a second up close, or from 50 yards away….this is about the fact that police work is a hell of a lot harder than watching videos after the fact and declaring what should have been done. I say that rushing the kid nearly worked, and the only reason it didn’t is that he reached for his gun at the last second.

                  The logic at the end of this line of thinking seems to lead to the conclusion that the police shouldn’t be criticized in these types of situations because they have a hard and dangerous job, that those of us who aren’t in law enforcement essentially just have to defer to the judgment of the police. Well, I suppose that makes some sense in a war zone, where you are guaranteed that an “enemy” is out there trying to kill you. But I confess it doesn’t make as much sense in a civilized society, where the police are, I would hope, trained to de-escalate the violence, not initiate it in less than two seconds.

                  Also, I have to admit this idea disturbs me a little bit: “I say that rushing the kid nearly worked, and the only reason it didn’t is that he reached for his gun at the last second.” At the “last second” indeed. Less than two, to be precise. And it was that “rushing the kid,” which you say almost worked, that actually caused the death of the kid, not the kid reaching for his gun. If there had been no rush, there would have been no dead kid.

                  Duane

                  Like

                  • King Beauregard

                     /  December 2, 2014

                    “And it was that “rushing the kid,” which you say almost worked, that actually caused the death of the kid, not the kid reaching for his gun. If there had been no rush, there would have been no dead kid.”

                    I don’t agree. I don’t see that it was a predictable reaction that, upon seeing a cop car approach, a kid would reach for his toy gun.

                    “The logic at the end of this line of thinking seems to lead to the conclusion that the police shouldn’t be criticized in these types of situations because they have a hard and dangerous job, that those of us who aren’t in law enforcement essentially just have to defer to the judgment of the police.”

                    Oh, I’m not saying that in general. I’m saying that strictly in the case of someone who is absolutely certain that he could distinguish between a toy gun and a real gun, and any cop who couldn’t belongs behind a desk.

                    Like

                    • You said, “I don’t see that it was a predictable reaction that, upon seeing a cop car approach, a kid would reach for his toy gun.”

                      Just what would have been a predictable reaction if, in fact, it was not a boy with a toy gun but a man with a real one? What might a cop expect if he went barreling up to an armed guy, a guy they had heard was pointing his gun at people in the park? I’m guessing such a barreling cop would be expecting trouble of some kind. And that is what I’m saying. Why push it to that point without at least assessing the situation first? If they had stayed back some distance, they would have quickly discovered what was going on. As it was, it was the rushing into the situation that caused the violence.

                      Like

                    • King Beauregard

                       /  December 2, 2014

                      “Just what would have been a predictable reaction if, in fact, it was not a boy with a toy gun but a man with a real one?”

                      My initial reaction probably would have been to jump out of the way, that’s if I managed to react at all. A car zooming up like that would have taken me by surprise.

                      Like

  4. ansonburlingame

     /  December 2, 2014

    Duane,

    Of course any lives matter, black, white, brown, etc. and the life of a police officer is equally important to society as that of any potential criminal or victim of a police shooting. All, each one has the three inaliable rights.

    Most of the corrective action(other than retry the case in the media) post Brown shooting has been directed to more and more training, etc. for police as well as more and more technology for them as well. I have yet to hear any sensible ideas how to correct errant behavior on the part of citizens coming into contact with police.

    You commented in this case that a 12 year old kid was playing as if he was attacking bad guys. Hmmm. Given his background, state of mind of a 12 year old if you will, is it possible that the bad guys in his mind were cops? Is it possible that when cops in fact showed up he continued to “play”, drawing his fake gun and …….. Who knows? But is such aggressive behavior on the part of a 12 year old possible? If the answer is yes, then why becomes the question and what can or should be done about it, long before such a deadly interaction happened.

    My point of course is any time cops show up in an official capacity it becomes a potentially dangerous, even deadly situation, every time. I scanned today’s police log in the Globe, maybe 150 instances of citizens interacting with police, a ticket or arrest made and a fine subsequently levied. Each one of those instances could have been a shootout.

    Given the recent events in Ferguson, do you believe there is a heigthened awareness on the part of just Joplin cops to be more careful, on their toes everytime they interact with any citizens? That is simply human nature, be on a higher alert given recent violence.

    You quote a statistic of far more blacks being shot by police than other races. I wonder what the statistic might be of the incidents of blacks accosting police as opposed to other races. Of all the white cops on black kids or adults interactions, I wonder what the statistics show the criminal or victim attacks on white cops might be, starting with very aggressive verbal abuse towards the cops and then physical attacks on cops or even shots fired at cops. In other words, statistically is it more likely that a black citizen will aggressively respond against the cop than other races?

    I saw some polling recently showing that some 80% of white citizens felt that cops did a good job. But the number of black citizens reporting the same sense of right or wrong was much, much lower. In other words blacks generally react negatively towards cops while whites react in compliance, a sense of things will be OK. Does that not indicate a “training problem” for black citizens?

    Does every applicant for becoming a cop receive a complete and thorough psychiatric test to show signs of racism? Is indication of such sentiments cause for denying each and every application? Should such be the case or do we believe any potentially racist cop can be trained to avoid such sentiments? Should we go back into the family history of such applicants to find signs of racial strife (like in the case of the prosecutor) and thus never allow such people to enter the profession of law enforcement?

    Would the reverse approach apply for any black applicant for entry into law enforcement, any black cop, lawyer, etc. should be rejected if there was a negative racial interaction in his or her family history, or even in his own history as a kid or young adult?

    I seriously doubt that police screening before they go into the streets or training for that matter emphasize that ANY citizen engaging with police, any time, must shoot first before the police can lawfully shoot, and only in response to shots fired first, at them. Should that be the standard of our laws? Would you so serve as a cop if such was the case, entering a dark and potentially dangerous place, which given the proliferation of guns today can be essentially anywhere, day or night.

    Activists supporting blacks call for more training, more restrictions, more technology on only one side of the interaction. In such a case 95% becomes the enemy of 100%, an issue of diminishing returns to achieve perfection. Safety rules face the same challenge. You can put all the rules in place you like and train workers to such rules all you like. But at some point workers will make a mistake, in some cases egregious mistakes.

    When that happens you have said in the past “any safety violation is a management error”, totally ignoring worker attitudes that ignore or demean safety rules.

    The sense of the black community, the overwhelming sense, and most liberals is all our efforts must be directed to better select and train cops. OK assume we achieve “perfect cops”. Do you think that will result in no white cops on black criminal or victim interactions with a dead black man or woman on the streets? And IF you achieve such a goal, zero dead blacks, I wonder what the increase in dead cops might become?

    I do believe, know is too strong a word, that if every citizen just stopped, kept his mouth shut and did what he was told to do by a cop then we would not be arguing over such issues. But when a citizen begins arguing, shouting, acting as if he or she would ……, then things go downhill pretty fast. I can think of all kinds of things I could do if stopped for speeding that could result in me spread eagled on the back of my car and being cuffed and the cops would be justified in doing such to me, whether I was speeding or not.

    How do we fix that attitude on the part of all citizens? There is a legal way to oppose the actions of law enforcement but acting irresponsibily as a citizen is not the right way in any interaction with law enforcement at the time of the first interaction with a cop(s). Some people die when that happens, some times.

    Anson

    Like

    • Anson,

      I don’t quite know what to say about your contentions here.

      Let me start with this:

      I have yet to hear any sensible ideas how to correct errant behavior on the part of citizens coming into contact with police.

      Just exactly what “errant behavior” did this kid engage in? The cops do not get the benefit of the doubt that they told him three times (in less than two seconds) to put his hands up. Why? Because it was reported that they said Tamir was with a “group” of people in the gazebo. That was before anyone knew there was surveillance video available. Now, with the video, we know that wasn’t true. He was alone. So, as I said, they don’t get the benefit of the doubt that they gave him a chance to put his hands up.

      If you think his “errant behavior” was reaching into his pants (if that is, in fact, what he did) to get his gun, then perhaps he was doing so merely to show the officers that his gun was a toy. He certainly wasn’t getting it out to shoot one of them, right? So, I am at a loss to know why you are putting the blame on him.

      More important, I am, honestly, astonished at this:

      Given his background, state of mind of a 12 year old if you will, is it possible that the bad guys in his mind were cops? Is it possible that when cops in fact showed up he continued to “play”, drawing his fake gun and …….. Who knows? But is such aggressive behavior on the part of a 12 year old possible? If the answer is yes, then why becomes the question and what can or should be done about it, long before such a deadly interaction happened.

      Maybe you don’t realize it, Anson, but you are essentially blaming the victim. Tamir Rice didn’t do anything, not one thing, that day to deserve what happened to him. The idea that you think “it possible that the bad guys in his mind were cops” is, well, part of the problem. Black men are not given the benefit of the doubt. Even 12-year-old black boys must have some “background” reason why a police officer shot them dead in less than two seconds. Then you wonder why it is that black people trust the police less than whites. Think about it for a second.

      You talked about “entering a dark and potentially dangerous place, which given the proliferation of guns today can be essentially anywhere, day or night.” Leaving aside the fact that this incident happened in the daytime, in a public park, I will grant you that police work, these days or any time before, can be dangerous work, especially in big cities like Cleveland. Of course it is. And we can’t expect the police to do their jobs perfectly every time. But we should expect them, when they mess up, to take steps to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, whether it be better screening, better training, or whatever. What we have too often is a circling of the wagons and an obfuscation of the truth. (By the way, the police unions, like all unions, are in the business of protecting their members; why is it that conservatives distrust all unions but police unions?)

      Finally, I want to address this idea you expressed about fixing the “attitude” of we the citizens:

      …if every citizen just stopped, kept his mouth shut and did what he was told to do by a cop then we would not be arguing over such issues.

      No, we wouldn’t be arguing over such issues. In fact, we wouldn’t be arguing about anything because we would be living in a police state.

      Duane

      Like

  5. Did the Burlingame’s etal not look at the video? The boy was not in a dark and potentially dangerous place. He was on a playground.
    It is clearly murder by cop.
    The worst part is that today in America there are no restraints on police. Shoot to kill first and have no regrets.

    Like

    • King Beauregard

       /  December 2, 2014

      Just once, I’d like to hear one of you “murder by cop” types come right out and admit that Tamir was reaching for a gun that looked real in the couple seconds immediately before the police opened fire. Can you do that?

      Like

      • OK King, here you go: He was reaching for a toy gun. Police dispatchers missed vital information. An over eager cop shot first in that two seconds. They then waited for a higher ranked officer to tell them to try to save the victim.

        While you are at it, you may be interested in the truth about Brown vs Liar. I will remind you that shooting a fleeing suspect is against the law. Here is the truth you may not like to hear:

        http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/12/02/audio-recording-michael-brown-shooting-proves-darren-wilsons-story-false/

        Like

        • King Beauregard

           /  December 2, 2014

          “over eager cop”

          Wrong — in a situation where the other person is going for their gun, a cop is not “over eager” if he shoots first. It’s what he needs to do to survive.

          “While you are at it, you may be interested in the truth about Brown vs Liar. I will remind you that shooting a fleeing suspect is against the law. Here is the truth you may not like to hear:”

          Yes yes fascinating, and has nothing to do with this case. You know what the biggest difference between Tamir and Michael is? Darren Wilson had no reason at all to think his life might be in danger.

          Like

    • Murder is not what happened here. What we have, as I have said, is poor judgment on the part of both the driver of the car, who had experience, and the shooter, who did not. No one should think that either cop woke up that day with the idea to kill an innocent kid. It was either poor training, poor execution of good training, or two cops with the wrong temperament to be competent protectors of the public.

      Like

  6. I don’t know whether this is even a reasonable thing to say, but I keep thinking about it,
    have been ever since … so I’ll say it:
    I think about when my boys were 12 (or even when I was). And I wonder how they
    would have reacted to such a sudden shock while they’re playing alone in a park. Would
    they have thought something like “Does that policeman think I’ve got something
    dangerous? I should show it to him, I’ll show him it’s just a toy…” I can imagine
    that any boy, at 12, might have thought that, and then pulled it out to show it to the men.

    Like

    • I thought exactly the same thing, Helen. In fact, it explains perfectly why, if Tamir actually took the gun out of his pants, he did so. He was trying to make it clear his gun wasn’t real. Things happened so fast, with the cops barreling through the grass to the gazebo, no one should expect a kid to reason the way some are saying he should have reasoned, namely, that the cops might think he was going to kill them. Thanks for your common sense comment, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • King Beauregard

         /  December 3, 2014

        Honestly, that sounds more like “explaining it away” than “common sense”: according to this mode, this kid is making all manner of inferences about the presence of the cops and their intentions (seriously, the kid figured out that the cops were there to look at his gun?), and after this rather impressive bout of adult-grade thinking, follows it up with the absolute worst action he could take.

        It’s clearly a tragedy, and one that we can’t blame the kid for. But there isn’t some sort of Conservation of Blame arithmetic such that, since the kid isn’t responsible, the police therefore take over his portion of responsibility for this tragedy and must have caused him to act in the fashion that they then responded fatally to.

        Like

        • I guess we will agree to disagree.

          Except I don’t quite understand this:

          a) “It’s clearly a tragedy, and one that we can’t blame the kid for.”

          b) “…there isn’t some sort of Conservation of Blame arithmetic such that, since the kid isn’t responsible, the police therefore take over his portion of responsibility for this tragedy.”

          I’m trying to figure out if you assign any responsibility to Tamir Rice for his own death. Seems unclear to me, and it is important for me to understand whether you do or don’t.

          Like

          • King Beauregard

             /  December 3, 2014

            I think he was a kid, who had kid concerns, who took actions with perfectly innocent intent that unfortunately had ramifications he didn’t understand. As I like to say, the point of awareness is the point of responsibility, so even though Tamir took actions that drew exactly the worst responses, I can’t see him as responsible.

            I also have trouble holding the police responsible, to the extent that they were dealing with a situation with limited information and even less backup, and no action they could have taken was without risk. Clearly they made the wrong call, since an innocent kid needlessly died; but given the variables and unknowns they made the best call they could and hoped for the best. Rushing the kid almost worked too.

            So, what was the Tamir doing grabbing for the gun? The most likely explanation in my mind is, his gun was a valuable thing and he was grabbing it so it didn’t fall out. When I have to break into a run, I make sure my cell phone is tucked away tight so it doesn’t get lost, and I’m thinking Tamir might have been thinking the same way. Unfortunately, that was also the worst possible choice he could have made.

            Like

  7. ansonburlingame

     /  December 3, 2014

    Duane and I exchanged recent emails about Ferguson and a different question was raised. I share it herein.

    In both Ferguson and this 12 year old shooting cops have been accused of racism, reaction with deadly force to unarmed blacks. Why is on everyone’s minds.

    Certainly racism could have been the motive. Here comes another ……… and out comes the gun for self protection because cops are in danger (so thinks the cop anytime a ….. shows up). The ……. contain racial slurs no doubt. Fear of …….. drives the reaction of self defense on the part of a bigoted cop.

    Well, there is another human trait that could dominate racism. It is simple cowardice. Fight or flight, regardless of the color of the skin of the potential assilant, dominates. Some cops might duck and run, others immediately draw and shoot without thinking, out of instinct which could be called cowardice.

    Same applies to some criminals, the instinct of fight or flight. Some run and some stand their ground and fight, almost out of instinct. Some people call it having a “hair trigger”, an instinct to fight, without even thinking about consequences and I believe it can apply to both assilants and cops.

    Had Wilson shot and killed Brown while Wilson was in the car and Brown was reaching for him, according to testimony, Wilson might have been accused of a “hair trigger” or even cowardice. But if Wilson’s testimony, supported by forensics is true, he carefully thought, “can I shot and kill this man”, said “yes to himself” and shot to kill as he was trained to do.

    Certainly that does not seem to be the case with the 12 year old. That seems to be a case of a “hair trigger” on the part of a cop. Was that cop a coward, but not a racist? Can cowardice in the line of duty be prosecuted?

    Now Duane, to relieve your consternation, my comment about “errant behavior” was applied primarily towards Brown. BUT, because the 12 year old MIGHT have been “trained to hate cops” by the people around him, his “thoughts” might have been errant, because he was “trained to think that way”. That is NOT blaming the victim. It is challenging the manner in which he was “trained” by HIS society.

    I played Cowboys and Indians as a youngster. Indians were ALWAYS the “bad guys” in every western movie I ever saw as a kid in the late 40’s and early 50’s. John Wayne always rode to the rescue and dead Indians left all over the place, and a weeping woman in Wayne’s arms after the fight was over. Could that kid have had the thoughts of “blacks and cops” in his head and reacted as John Wayne reacted in all the movies I saw, or Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, etc., etc.

    Permit if you will for me to summarize my chain of thoughts on both Ferguson and Cleveland now. For Ferguson, the system of justice performed in accordance with the law. The cop will not be charged in a criminal trial. If you disagree go after the prosecutor. Be my guest to do so and I will await the outcome without trying to defend the prosecutor at this point. As well if the Feds choose to charge a Civil Rights offensence against the cop, go ahead and I will await that outcome, but already expecting such will NOT happen for lack of evidence to convict. Finally if the grand jury system is wrong, I will listen to ideas of how to change it, one way or the other.

    For Cleveland, I believe at this point the cops had a “hair trigger” to say the least. Is that illegal? Maybe and I will await any results from an investigation before reaching my own conclusions.

    But the two cases are decidedly different right now in my view.

    Anson

    Like

    • Anson,

      First, I’m glad you mentioned the following about Officer Wilson: “he carefully thought, ‘can I shoot and kill this man,’ said ‘yes to himself’ and shot to kill as he was trained to do.”

      That happens to be the part of his testimony that I not only find unpersuasive, but ridiculous on its face. It’s almost as if Wilson wants us to believe that at such an intense and fast-developing moment in time, he had a philosophical debate with himself. Hooey. It makes me trust him less and makes me more likely to think he acted rashly and unnecessarily.

      Second, I have no reason to believe the rookie cop who shot Tamir Rice was a racist. I have no reason to believe he was acting maliciously at all for any reason. I do have reason to believe that the entire episode was an example of failing to take the time to assess a situation, or, worse, they assessed the situation and made a very stupid decision (they apparently claimed at first that they observed Tamir with a group of people in the gazebo, which they clearly did not).

      Third, with your reference to cowboys and Indians you make my point about the effects negative stereotypes about race can have on people’s attitudes. Because you, like me, grew up seeing Native Americans mostly portrayed as savages deserving  John Wayne’s ire and bullets, you played child games with Native Americans as the “bad” guys. Just substitute “blacks” for “Indians” and you get my point about what may be the reason why we see so many examples of bad police conduct when it comes to blacks (even though the cultural conditioning may be more subtle these days).

      Fourth, as far as Ferguson, I agree that the prosecutor should be the focus of attention at this point. Unless Jay Nixon appoints another prosecutor to re-present evidence to another grand jury (something he could do if he wanted to), Officer Wilson will never see the inside of a criminal court room, whether he deserves to or not.

      Fifth, as far as the incident in Cleveland, sure there was a “hair trigger.” We agree on that. My contention is that the police got themselves into a situation where, as the rookie cop said, he had to do what he did. In other words, if the cops had acted more prudently, if they had stayed back and assessed the situation, there wouldn’t have been a hair trigger situation because there wouldn’t have been a trigger needed at all.

      Duane

      Like

  8. King Beauregard

     /  December 3, 2014

    Posted over a year ago.

    Like

    • Yes, that’s good advice. Why? Because you never know when someone will get you confused with a real gun-toting black adult male. I find it amazing, though, how white people toting real guns in and out of department stores, bars, and God knows where else, are not considered a threat to the cops. Heck, some white gun-toters, including those pointing real guns at federal agents in the service of freeloading rancher Cliven Bundy, are considered cultural heroes to those right-wing folks who always side with the cops in cases like Tamir Rice (yes, I know you aren’t one of those).

      Like

      • King Beauregard

         /  December 3, 2014

        What race was the kid in California? I bothered to look it up: he was a light-skinned Hispanic, not a black kid.

        Like

      • King Beauregard

         /  December 3, 2014

        I also found news stories and PSAs involving cops nearly shooting white kids; the difference between the shootings and not-shootings seems to be quickly complying.

        Though this reminds me of the time the state troopers thought my brother-in-law had a gun: he’d given some other motorist the finger and that other motorist called the cops (malice? fear? who knows). When he was pulled over, completely unarmed, there were nothing but wall-to-wall guns pointed at him, and he didn’t move a muscle. Guess what race he is? That’s right, he’s black! Just kidding, he’s so white he’s almost translucent … but white privilege goes out the window if the cops think they might be in danger.

        Like

        • Okay, I’m glad we agree that Tamir bears no responsibility for his death. But I just can’t agree with this statement about the police: “no action they could have taken was without risk.” That’s exactly the wrong way of phrasing it. There was no risk in any action they might have taken save for the action they actually took. Any other action would have ended with a live Tamir.

          You also, rightly, say: “white privilege goes out the window if the cops think they might be in danger.” Of course that reality has nothing to do with another reality, namely that black teenagers—it is not disputed—face a disproportionate risk of getting shot by the police. Subheader from a recent USA Today story, for instance:

          Between 2010 and 2012, black males between the ages of 15 and 19 were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, according to an analysis by ProPublica. For white teenagers, the rate dropped to 1.47 deaths per million.

          That, along with the facts of the case obviously, is part of the context for analyzing the shooting of Tamir Rice, as far as I’m concerned. I’m sorry we don’t agree on this important matter, but maybe we will on the case of Eric Garner.

          Like

          • King Beauregard

             /  December 3, 2014

            The only reason we don’t agree on this case is because the police had what I consider genuine reason to feel their lives were at risk, and as such were entitled to self-defense.

            “There was no risk in any action they might have taken save for the action they actually took. Any other action would have ended with a live Tamir.”

            Hogwash — risk means dealing with the unknowns, and at the time, the police didn’t know whether Tamir was packing. Hooray for us that we can safely say the best course of action would have been for a policeman to walk up to him calmly and chat with him about Airsoft safety, but that’s a luxury the responding officers didn’t have in that crucial moment.

            Like

            • The police only had reason to believe “their lives were at risk” because they put themselves into that position. That is the reason we don’t agree. I don’t think they had to put themselves into that position and you, as far as I can tell, think they were justified in doing so. You, as far as I can tell, refuse to acknowledge that mistake they made, which we know was a mistake because of the outcome: an innocent kid is dead. The only thing left to evaluate is whether that mistake was avoidable. I think it was avoidable, and, as far as I can tell, you don’t.

              Having said that, I have to admit that this statement you made is off-putting, as far as I’m concerned:

              Hooray for us that we can safely say the best course of action would have been for a policeman to walk up to him calmly and chat with him about Airsoft safety, but that’s a luxury the responding officers didn’t have in that crucial moment.

              I’m not sure why you have dug yourself into this foxhole, but I will tell you that as much as I respect you, as much as I value your input, as much as I appreciate your contributions to the conversation on this blog, I don’t have the slightest idea why you would set up a bullshit sarcastic scenario like “the best course of action would have been for a policeman to walk up to him calmly and chat with him about Airsoft safety, but that’s a luxury the responding officers didn’t have in that crucial moment.”

              Let me say it plainly: No one expected the police to walk up to Tamir Rice “calmly and chat with him” about anything. That’s utter bullshit on your part. It’s a grotesque straw man. I have contended that the officers should have maintained some safe distance and first assessed the situation, not charged in with their patrol car on the grass near that gazebo, thereby creating what you called “that crucial moment.” I have heard a number of experienced law enforcement people say the exact same thing.

              Thus, as far as not having the “luxury” of talking with Tamir, that was because the officers acted rashly, failing to prudently evaluate the situation before rushing in with guns blazing. Had they acted prudently, they would have, indeed, had the opportunity to observe, maybe even talk with, the boy and figure out that he was a kid playing with a gun, for whatever reason he was doing so.

              Like

              • King Beauregard

                 /  December 4, 2014

                “You, as far as I can tell, refuse to acknowledge that mistake they made, which we know was a mistake because of the outcome: an innocent kid is dead. The only thing left to evaluate is whether that mistake was avoidable. I think it was avoidable, and, as far as I can tell, you don’t.”

                Here’s the problem: we know it was a mistake ONLY IN RETROSPECT, because we know ONLY IN RETROSPECT that the kid didn’t have a real gun. Had it been a real gun, then perhaps rushing him and restraining him before he could react might have saved lives.

                I realize you are invested in the rush being what prompts the kid reaching for the gun, as if the one logically and predictably leads to the other. I do not see that at all as a predictable response. Turning and running, sure, but not standing there and reaching.

                As for my sarcasm, it wasn’t sarcastic. Knowing what we know now, that WOULD have been the best course of action. Except that the police had no such foreknowledge, which I think is something I’m doing a lot better job of keeping in mind than you are.

                Like

                • King B,

                  First of all, allow me to apologize for my tone last time. Your comments struck me extra-negatively, possibly because I had been absorbing a lot of news coverage of the baffling and upsetting grand jury decision in New York.

                  On with it: It’s exactly because “the police had no such foreknowledge” that I take the position I do. I’m invested in it because I happen to think it is not only the right position, but in some respects I think it appears to be self-evidently the right position (I’m obviously wrong about that).

                  It might have taken them 30 seconds of observation from an unthreatening distance to get some vital knowledge of what was going on. Maybe park a ways away and shout some commands and see what happened. By now I have heard many people in law enforcement, including former police officers, criticize their initial action of driving right up to the suspect in the way they did, simply because it jeopardized the officers themselves, not to mention a potentially innocent suspect. Those people are not lowly bloggers criticizing the cops’ action, they are professionals in the field or formerly in the field.

                  And it seems to me such criticism was completely rational, even before we found out more about the rookie cop, information that doesn’t look good for him. For God’s sake, he was judged to have unremediable deficiencies at his prior job.

                  By the way, I want to make something clear, for you and those who may be following this long discussion. I consider myself to be an old-fashioned law-and-order liberal in many respects. For instance, I’m one of those left-leaners who think people who commit crimes with loaded guns should be locked up, swiftly followed by throwing away the key to their cells. Move more people out of prison who pose no legitimate threat to civilized life (like people in there for selling pot, for instance) and lock up, for good as far as I’m concerned, anyone who uses a loaded gun to commit any type of crime. I’m hard-core in that respect. Gun violence and civilization don’t mix. As for cops, I view the police as absolute guardians of our civilized life and they should get the benefit of the doubt in close calls.

                  The problem is that some of the calls aren’t so close. The Cleveland case, from my law-and-order-loving perspective, isn’t a close case, nor is the one in New York with the choke-hold-happy cop. The police should do better than they did in those two cases and the police should be the first to say so. Because as everyone realizes by now, people, all people, have to trust every aspect of our justice system, from the police to the prosecutor to the judge and jury, for civilization to work well.

                  Duane

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                  • King Beauregard

                     /  December 4, 2014

                    It’s all good; I’ve seen far worse on the Internet, from far far worse people who argue with a general absence of good faith. I have no complaints.

                    I feel like we are treading a visible path in the grass by now, so I’ll bypass the points that you can expect from me by now. On to new material:

                    “Maybe park a ways away and shout some commands and see what happened.”

                    Now that’s an interesting point, and I have avoided going there because it’s conjecture, but I am about to conject anyway since that’s where we ended up. What if the police DID shout to Tamir? They seemed to already have his attention when they were driving up; it’s possible they had shouted to him. Maybe not all three shouts like they claimed (we know parts of their account were entirely false so that puts the whole of it in question), but what if they shouted to him, and he didn’t show a whole lot of evidence of following their directions … what then? The options start reducing to either closing with him, shooting him, or waiting; and since waiting isn’t likely to expose more and better options, they tried to close. Again, conjecture, but I can certainly see how they would get to that point. They’re in a very public place with no cover, no backup, no way to keep innocent bystanders from wandering into harm’s way, and (again, conjecture) neither cooperation nor hostility from the suspect. Closing starts looking good, and the faster the better.

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                    • My friend, my friend. I hope you rethink this whole thing, at least in light of what we now know about the “chaotic and dangerous” mentality (more below) that infected the Cleveland police department. It’s not too late to reexamine your contentions, which turn out to be contradicted by the widespread police malfeasance and misfeasance throughout the department. Here are some items to consider:

                      1. The officers lied about their initial observations of Tamir Rice. That’s not a minor detail. It goes to their subsequent credibility, which would be approaching zero in any judicial proceeding. I know in the grievance-arbitration cases I was involved in, if my witness had lied about important initial events, his or her testimony wouldn’t be worth a shit the rest of the way.

                      2. The inexperienced officer resigned from his previous job just before he was about to be fired for incompetence, particularly involving his inability to emotionally handle his job, including his job of handling a weapon. Supervisory cops examined this cop and found him incompetent to do his job. Cleveland hired him without even looking at his prior experience as a relatively small town officer. The death of Tamir Rice is directly attributable to this failure.

                      3. The more experienced driver of the barreling car was involved in an incident in which the city paid out $100,000 to settle a claim related to excessive force (details of which are too complicated to explain here). That weird incident would in itself be enough to ignite suspicions that he had no business out on the street dealing with people. Poor judgment, which is exactly what he displayed in that wild approach that ended in Tamir’s death.

                      4. Two years ago a car chase involving 62 Cleveland police vehicles, which ended in the death of two people–whose crime was speeding–caused the mayor of Cleveland to seek federal examination of the police department. Thirteen different cops fired shots into the couple’s vehicle. A total of 137 shots were fired, some of them by an officer who stood on the hood of the car and fired into the windshield. Jesus.

                      5. The resulting Justice Department investigation was released, with USA Today reporting:

                      A federal review of policing in Cleveland found that officers’ use of unreasonable force was part of a pattern of behavior that was in some cases endorsed by supervisors….The Justice review examined 600 incidents in which police used some method of force between 2010 and 2013. It concluded in part that law enforcement is “sometimes chaotic and dangerous … and frequently deprives individuals of their constitutional rights.” … Among the most troubling disclosures:

                      • In addition to fatal shootings, the excessive force involved victims who were struck in the head, sometimes with the butts of police-issued firearms.

                      • Some of the incidents involved the mentally ill or emotionally disturbed in cases where officers were called merely to check on their welfare.

                      • Poor training contributed to cases in which policed employed dangerous tactics that placed the general public at risk.

                      If all that isn’t enough to cause you to reevaluate, then there isn’t much more I can say. But I will add one more thing that has bothered me from the beginning. I have watched that video I don’t know how many times. And I’ll be damned if I can figure out what Tamir is doing as the officers approached him. Presumably, because the video is too grainy to make it out, the account of him reaching for his gun is from the lips of the two officers, neither of whom are trustworthy based on their before-I-knew-there-was-a-video claims. I don’t know what was going on with Tamir. But I know I will not take the word of two cops such as those two who, unfortunately for that sixth grader, happened to be the ones responding to that 911 call.

                      Duane

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                    • King Beauregard

                       /  December 4, 2014

                      “Presumably, because the video is too grainy to make it out, the account of him reaching for his gun is from the lips of the two officers, neither of whom are trustworthy based on their before-I-knew-there-was-a-video claims.”

                      I’ve been looking for anyone anywhere with any kind of credibility who watched that video and didn’t feel that Tamir’s actions could be reasonably interpreted as reaching for a gun. Find me that person and I’ll listen to them as fairly as I can. But thus far that person has not come forward, at least as far as I have been able to find, and that tells me the consensus (for now) is that the cops had reason to believe Tamir was reaching for a gun.

                      The case against these two cops would actually be easier without that video, as I see it.

                      Fair enough, these were a couple of terrible cops. But terrible cops or no, when the suspect is reaching for a gun (or appears to be), the options still reduce to the same two.

                      Like

                    • Looking back at the initial reports, I find one consistent thing about whether Tamir pulled out a gun: the police said he did. That’s all I can find. The video doesn’t show that. No independent witnesses saw him do it. The story apparently comes from the two cops, “terrible cops” in your words, cops who didn’t tell the truth from the start and have everything to gain from saying that Tamir pulled out his gun upon their arrival.

                      Examples from cleveland.com on November 24:
                      “An officer saw the boy pick up what looked like a gun and placed it in his waistband. The gun was actually an airsoft-type gun, police said.”

                      “Tamir reached down to his waistband and pulled out the airsoft gun before the officer shot him, police told Northeast Ohio Media Group reporter Cory Shaffer.”

                      If that’s all there is, that ain’t good enough. The Cleveland police department has been proven untrustworthy in this case.

                      Like

  9. Ben Field

     /  December 4, 2014

    King,
    Mistake #1. Dispatch leaves omission that weapon was suspected as a toy.
    Mistake #2. Rookie cop had personnel file showing poor marksmanship, and the notation that he broke down emotionally in stressful shooting exercises. File said he was too emotionally mature for the job.
    Mistake #3. Veteran and rookie careen vehicle within 10 feet of child and immediately start shooting. This is not police procedure, this is “Hollywood” Bruce Willis bullshit.
    Mistake #4. Fail to initiate any first aid to child victim until supervisor arrives.
    I have watched the video several times with a magnifying glass and cannot discern the child drawing a “weapon” in a manner that would cause me to kill him. But of course I don’t have your keen senses. I am unaware of any police training that says the best way to confront an armed suspect is to slide your vehicle next to him and jump out shooting. You are entitled to your opinion though, no matter how flawed it might be.

    Like

    • King Beauregard

       /  December 4, 2014

      I thought you were the guy who could discern a real gun from a toy no matter what distance, how can you watch the video and not see the kid reaching for his waist (where the gun was)? Go to any discussion of this video on the Internet, and you won’t find any credible person denying that he was making a move that police could reasonably have interpreted as reaching for his gun. I guess they’re all wrong too, huh?

      Again, the force needs someone with your boundless perception and talents.

      Like

  10. Ben Field

     /  December 4, 2014

    Tell me where I said that, now you’re just making crap up. Do I see a gun in the video? No. At exactly the moment he drops his hands from his chest, he was shot. The cop assessed the death penalty with his boundless perception as he was exiting the vehicle. He was as incompetent as your defense of him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • King Beauregard

       /  December 4, 2014

      Your own words:

      “Both officers should be limited to desk duty if they are unable to discern a real threat from their fear of a black child with a toy.”

      Glad that police work is the simplest thing in the world from you, from the comfort of your chair and your Internet connection.

      Like

  11. Ben Field

     /  December 4, 2014

    That was after the fact of killing him. I still agree that neither are fit for duty to approach a situation in that manner. It was unnecessary to put themselves in that situation and if you agree with that approach to policing from your easy chair then that explains all I need to know. I cannot see the grand jury no billing these officers, and if they do you can expect all hell to break loose.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. RDG,

    Bottom line: The police officer who shot and killed a child should never have been carrying a weapon.

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/03/officer-who-fatally-shot-tamir-rice-had-been-judged-unfit?CMP=share_btn_tw

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent bird-dogging Juan. The killer wasn’t competent enough to have a gun. What other inventions will the cops trot out?

      Like

    • Thanks, Juan. I’ve been following the developments all day and night. It makes me sick to my stomach. Cleveland policing is an embarrassment to the entire country. More to come.

      Like

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