During the past few years, police practices that have been around for generations have been dragged into the light. More importantly, the people and the legal system are paying attention. Killing after killing, in city after city, have shown some police to be ever ready to kill instead of bothering to find another way to apprehend. In many cases, the killing even followed apprehension. Few if any cases are worse than that of the execution of 12 year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
In the past week, the Cleveland prosecutor announced there would be no indictments resulting from this killing. A key term in that sentence is “Cleveland prosecutor.” This person’s career depends on good relations with the local police. No one in this position should ever be responsible for prosecution of such a case.
One facet of the sequence of events was the failure of the dispatcher to pass along the opinion of the person who called to report the presence of Tamir in the Cleveland park. He said that it was probably a juvenile with a fake weapon. It was a terrible oversight not to pass along this information, but to me, not the worst.
Let’s assume that the two police in the car that answered the call really believed that there was an armed person there with a real gun, and that he posed a threat. Under those circumstances, screeching to a halt within ten to fifteen feet of the armed suspect would have been truly stupid. Maybe it was. Or maybe they just wanted to act macho. I don’t know what the police procedures would have called for, but it wouldn’t and/or shouldn’t be this. That approach ensured that events would go badly quickly.
If the gun holder was a real threat, he might very well have shot the police before they could even get out of their car. Or he might have dropped the gun. Lucky for the police it was a child with a toy gun. Their approach frightened them, to the point that they didn’t take time to evaluate the situation before executing the boy. I would suspect that stopping at a distance, identifying themselves as police, and instructing Tamir to drop the weapon, might have had a much better chance of success. Why these two murderers chose the macho approach might be rooted in the police mentality.
There are police-involved events that should never lead to someone being hurt or killed. Traffic stops, stopping someone from selling contraband on the street, waking up someone sleeping in a doorway or in a tent, on and on into infinity. If someone dies or is hurt during these kinds of encounters, perhaps because they are holding a harmonica, or skittles, the fault lies with the immature, unprepared, and guilty officer(s). And if this happens, then the system is terribly wrong and must be changed as well as prosecuting the guilty officers. Also, any time dozens of bullets are shot into any body, it is not an apprehension, it is a feeding frenzy.
One more point. Just because there is no orange tip on a toy gun, it is not a license to kill. Perhaps the next mass murderer will learn to paint the tip of his or her gun orange to avoid being stopped prematurely. The orange tip idea is a good one, but it isn’t a reason to avoid observation and evaluation.