The other day I heard about the shooting of Tamir Rice by Cleveland PD, and as soon as I saw the video, I had to write about it! I know it happened a while ago, but I haven’t seen much talk about the officers’ tactics.
Now, I don’t know what kind of tactics they teach officers up in Cleveland, but Loehmann and Garmback lucky Rice wasn’t actually an armed hostile, or it would have been they who’d be dead. If Cleveland PD actually trained officers to get that close, then they need a training overhaul, but if not at least one of those officers should have been fired long ago!
Distance Is Our Friend
When given a choice between confronting a suspect believed to be arm from a distance or close up, only an absolute idiot would choose to make the shot easy for the suspect. Unlike most people officers encounter, we are actually trained to shoot targets from a distance, giving officers an advantage at long range.
Plus, the psychological impact of that distance naturally makes everyone less jumpy, meaning that a suspect’s less likely to make sudden moves, and any confusion about what the officers want them to do is less likely to result in a shooting, justified or not. Hell, Even if Tamir did reach for his waistband, it he well have been thinking, “Oh crap! Here! Take this stupid thing!” And that sudden flurry of thought and action could have been completely avoided, if Loehmann and Garmback weren’t all but running him over!
The Better Part of Valor is Discretion
While we all hate to have a suspect run from us and get away, unless you’re chasing down a guy who you know just killed a bunch of people, and will likely kill more if you don’t take him down right then and there, sometimes you just gotta (cue the music) let it go. And if Loehmann and Garmback were that concerned about him running, then they should have called for more units and tried to set up a perimeter, before they made contact, or at least had another unit nearby to help chase him if he ran! You know what? There were two officers in that car. How about dropping Loehmann off one street over, then Garmback could attempt to make contact from the other side, so Garmback herds him towards Loehmann! Use that mushy gray thing in your head guys!
The best part about the defense of their extreme proximity to Rice was claim that the patrol car slid on the grass. Seriously??? Unless that car slid a few hundred feet, those officers planed on being WAAAAY too close in the first place, ESPECIALLY if the dispatcher didn’t relay the comments about the gun possibly being fake!
Officers Who Assume the Worst Survive
Speaking of the fake gun comment, what the general public doesn’t understand is that information provided to officers is often inaccurate. Sometimes it’s as simple and harmless as an “E” on a license plate being misread as an “F”, or a dark blue being called black, but sometimes the “fake” gun is real.
Add to that the daisychain game of police dispatch systems, and even with perfect information provided by the caller, by the time it gets to the officer, there may be substantial inaccuracies. I personally remember a call where two black men in a white car were described to me by dispatch as two white men in a black car. Thankfully, it was the only car in the area, and there was enough additional matching information to assure me that I was looking at the right car, which led me to stop them, and find that their car was loaded with freshly stolen electronics!
Even if we did get highly reliable information 99% of the time, it would still be in the officer’s best interest to assume that the info is unreliable, when it comes to potentially dangerous situations. While this approach naturally increases the chances of a non-threats being mistaken for threats and hurt, it greatly reduces the chances of the officer getting killed, and like it or not, when faced with the “which of us gets to go home tonight” choice, all but the most fanatical believers in the afterlife default to self preservation.
Orange Tips are for Parents
Many news stories harp on the claim that Rice’s gun was an airsoft without the orange tip, as if that was the key to the whole thing. Just run an image search for “Colored Handguns”, then see how reassued you’d be by an orange tip, when the gun is pointed at you! Like I said, our lives depend on our assumption of the worst. The only people reassured by orange gun tips are people who never genuinely consider that someone might try to kill them that day.
So Who’s to Blame for Rice’s Death?
There is no question that the actions of Rice created the scenario leading to his death, but it was the keystone tactics used by Cleveland PD that ultimately was the causative factor.
Cleveland PD is clearly responsible. If Cleveland taught Loehmann and Garmback that tactic, then they will most likely be granted qualified immunity from prosecution, and the department will be held solely responsible. However, even if Cleveland PD didn’t teach that tactic, they are still responsible for hiring the Loehmann without even checking his personnel records! I mean, what kind of an idiot do you have to be to hand somebody a gun and send him to a call about an armed suspect in the park pointing a gun at people, without even checking to see if he’s an idiot or a nut job! So, regardless of their defense, the city of Cleveland will definitely be funding the Rice family college & retirement funds.
The veteran officer, Garmback, is also largely responsibile, because he was driving the car, which placed the Loehmann at point-blank range with a reportedly armed suspect. In fact, even if Cleveland taught them that stupidity, 10 years of experience in law-enforcement should have taught Garmback that such a tactic was basically asking for 40 cal lead crowns! The news reports claim that Garmback had a spotless personnel record, but if Cleveland PD didn’t even check the personnel records of Loehmann, when he applied to work there, I’m hard-pressed to believe that they have any serious disciplinary system in place, that would have recorded Garmback’s shenanigans in the first place! Again, Cleveland might have written the recipie, but Garmback’s the one directly responsible for putting the ingredients together for this tragedy.
As for the Loehmann, you may not like hearing this, but unless that strategy was his brain child, he was basically a helpless victim of circumstance. He was hired by a department that didn’t even bother to check his personnel records from the previous employer who apparently fired him for poor performance, he almost certainly got terribly tactical training, and he was stuck riding shotgun with a 10 year veteran who didn’t understand or didn’t care that he was basically shoving a rookie directly into an armed confrontation at point-blank range where the Loehmann’s only viable option for surviving was fight, not flight. And when you’re talking about a guy with a gun, standing a few feet in front of you the only viable option for fighting is quick use of your gun. Any talk about tasers or pepper spray is simply naïve over estimation of them by people who know nothing about them. When it comes down to it, Loehmann’s only real guilt here may be that he hired on with a crappy PD.
So there it is. What do you think? Any important info I appear to be missing? How do you think this could have been avoided?