Of the three killings of black men by police officers that made headlines recently, the shooting of Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer is by far the most outrageous. Michael Brown and Eric Garner were grown men. Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy
In an effort to decrease the heightened racial tensions caused by the shooting, yesterday the city of Cleveland handed over the investigation of the fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department.
Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said, “This decision to turn the investigation over was made to ensure that transparency and an extra layer of separation and impartiality were established. I believe that the best way to ensure accountability in a use of force investigation is to have it completed by an outside agency.”
12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed in November by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, mere seconds after Loehmann arrived at the recreation center playground and got out of his police car. When the 12-year-old boy lifted his shirt, Loehmann pulled his gun and shot Tamir Rice in the chest. Loehmann said that he thought he saw a handgun. In fact, Rice was holding a toy “airsoft” gun.
Rice was black, while Loehmann is white.
But handing the investigation over to the county might not solve the problem. Lawyers for Rice’s family have stated that the shooting should be investigated by an outside agency.
They said that in part because last month, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report which found “systemic deficiencies” in the Cleveland police department’s approach to using deadly force and investigating deadly force cases.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation that examined nearly 600 use-of-force incidents that occurred in Cleveland between 2010 and 2013.
According to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice found “reasonable cause” to believe the Cleveland Police Department routinely has used excessive force,
The DOJ last March opened the federal investigation of use if force by the Cleveland police force after residents, civil leaders, and Mayor Frank Jackson requested a review of a series of high-profile incidents.
The Department of Justice review, which spanned more than a year and a half, concluded that officers engaged in unnecessary use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes, and used excessive force against people who were mentally ill and in crisis.
The report also said that some of search and seizures by Cleveland police officers violated the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Department of Justice report makes a strong case that the Tamir Rice shooting is just the latest in a long series of violent overreactions by the Cleveland police
As a result of the report, Attorney General Holder said.an independent monitor will oversee new police reforms in Cleveland to ensure that law enforcement operates appropriately.
But it all comes too late for Tamir Rice.