The body of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, an African-American boy who was gunned down by a Cleveland police officer within seconds of the officer’s arrival on the scene, is barely cold and already the St. Louis Police Department is speaking up in defense of the officer who were involved in the child’s death.
Rice, who was carrying a toy gun in his waistband, was the subject of a 911 call, in which the caller both noted that the “weapon” was “probably fake” and that Rice was likely a juvenile. The dispatcher reportedly did not convey this information to officer, however.
On Thursday, the Justice Department investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s allegedly routine use of excessive force concluded. It was determined that the department did, indeed, regularly engage “in a pattern and practice of using excessive force.” According to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, the department suffered from inadequate training and a lack of accountability.
Tim Loehmann, the officer who shot Rice, was deemed unfit for duty years ago. “He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal,” Deputy Chief Jim Polack said during Loehmann’s brief employment with the Independence, Ohio Police Department.
Polack questioned Loehmann’s maturity and ability to handle a police job, as well, citing his “dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress.” Polack recommended that Loehmann be terminated in December 2012, and shortly after, the officer resigned for “personal reasons.”
Loehmann was hired in March 2014 by the Cleveland Police department, who did not review the dangerous officer’s records before signing him on.
Though Loehmann shot Rice less than two seconds after pulling up, both he and his partner swear they ordered the child to raise his hands three times before opening fire.
A precinct of the St. Louis County Police Department seized upon the opportunity to let parents know how they can keep their children from being murdered by overzealous police officers. The post, which was on Facebook, gathered attention when it was tweeted out by the St. Louis County PD’s “official” account.
The tweet linked to a Facebook post by the Fenton Precinct warning parents about the dangers presented by police if their children are spotted with a toy gun.
After blaming Rice for his own death because the orange tip was removed from his Airsoft gun, the Fenton Precinct wrote:
This article is not about this (sic) a boy losing his life, whether this was a justified shooting or, whether the cops acted too fast. This is about the Fenton Precinct making residents aware of a ‘hot’ topic and learning from this incident so Fenton never loses a child’s life.
“If you or your children have an Airsoft or pellet gun please sit them down and talk to them about this tragedy. Your children should have rules for ‘toy’ guns that mirror the rules of a real weapon Pellet guns and Airsoft guns should not be allowed to be played with throughout the neighborhood, common grounds, or used to threaten or intimidate people.
“If the type of gun is in question by the witness, the Police will respond as though it is a real gun until it can be confirmed one way or the other. Remember if an Airsoft pistol is tucked in your pants like a holster then obviously the orange tip is no longer visible. The police will respond lights and sirens and come to a screeching halt in the area where your child is playing with the gun,” the Precinct warned later in the post.
It’s OK, though — the police have some helpful tips for children that will prevent them from fearfully overreacting and robbing one of your precious little snowflakes of his or her future!
Here are some tips to help your child respond appropriately. Do not run away. They need to no longer have the guns in their hands, throw it away from them. They need to comply with officers instructions. They may be ordered to lie down on the ground. Clear communication between your child and the police is essential. Police need to know that it is a toy gun; I do hope I am explaining a scenario that will never happen in our area.
So again, “kids will be kids”, and your children will continue playing war in the common grounds. Share this with your children; tell this story to families that might need this information, and encourage your kids to talk to classmates about this. Working together we will keep our community a safe place.
Chief Jon Belmar has issued a statement through the page apologizing for the victim-blaming post.
Belmar called the post ” a misguided communication strategy” that “was offensive to many people.”
“As Chief of Police, I apologize to Tamir’s family and anyone who was offended by the post,” he wrote. “While the post did not originate from the Chief’s Office and I was unaware of its presence prior to its release, I realize the message was insensitive to Tamir’s family and the sorrow they are currently experiencing.”
“The post conveyed the message that my officers respond to calls involving a child with a gun with indiscretion and little regard for life,” he said of the post. “I want to emphasize that my officers respond to calls with discernment, and have the highest regard for human life. We train officers to take all facts and circumstances into consideration when making decisions about using force.”
Belmar said that the post was removed, and the social media policy has been changed to prevent any further accidental outbursts of honesty.