Tamir Rice would have been 14-years-old today. While the city of Cleveland celebrates its long-awaited sports championship, Tamir’s friends, family and supporters are still calling for justice.
Before a police officer pulled his trigger, mistaking an air soft gun for the real thing in a state where its legal to carry firearms, killing the 12-year-old, the Cleveland Police Department was already being investigated for misconduct. The Department of Justice began investigating the force in 2013 and ordered sweeping changes amongst Cleveland PD in December 2014.
As residents finish celebrating the historic win by the Cavaliers, folks are still living with police who routinely violate the civil rights of residents by using excessive force, the DOJ found in 2014. So, I took a break from celebrating the Cavaliers and checked in with folks from my hometown to see if police have made any noticeable changes while they implement better policing practices in the city.
I think that the Cleveland PD has made mostly cosmetic, superficial changes. Their information officer is more professional, they've enlisted local media to do stories on them associated with puppies, pancakes and basketball. Those of us that exercise our constitutional right to protest know that nothing has changed. They will still taunt you, and brutalize you and then lie in court. All one has to do is read the statements made by Stephen Loomis, president of the police union, since November 2014 to know that not much has changed. If anything, due to overturning of officer discipline through arbitration, they now believe they'll never be held accountable.
Cleveland officials are doing everything they can to rebrand the city, they want the gazebo gone and they want our memory of what happened to a 12-year-old to be replaced with fond memories of sports franchises. But we won't forget.
Jomo Benn, 43
Radio Host at Cleveland State University
I don’t think there’s been an attitude change in the department at all, we’re just going to forget about the Tamir Rice shooting and the other injustices by police here, especially with the Republican National Convention that’s coming to town. I’ve heard about several police involved shootings that have been swept under the rug because the city wants to portray a certain image before the convention this July.
When the police officer who killed Tamir was cleared of wrongdoing, there were roughly 150 people protesting, this is what concerns the city the most — a few protesters — and there’s a massive police presence swarming like it was a major catastrophe.
People were concerned when the Cavs won the championship, but the response was nothing like the shooting. Fans are jumping on police cruisers, firetrucks, commercial vehicles and everyone has been relatively calm about it, a lot of these places downtown got trashed but everyone was cool with it. I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if a protester did something like it. It reminds me of that old saying: “They love to see us run and dance but they don’t want to live next to you.”
Works for a “high-profile” company
I’ve lived in Cleveland for 13 years and I’ve never had a bad experience with police, only positive, but it only takes one arrogant cop to piss me off. I can't comment on the Tamir Rice shooting because I wasn't there, only three people were and unfortunately one is dead. However, Cleveland Police did do an amazing job at the Cavaliers championship parade. I was shocked at some of things they didn't do or say to people that I thought they should have (people hanging from parking garages). Police officers were giving high-fives to everyone. I really do commemorate the department — they have a hard job and do it well.
But there was one asshole that I witnessed today who ticked me off. A cop was carelessly directing cars into hitting pedestrians, it was clearly an accident but its sad when his response was "poor babies want me to hold your hand?” Cleveland is a great city with great cops minus one — he deserves to be fired for that.
Subodh Chandra, 48
Council for Tamir Rice family
It’s too early to assess a serious change in the behavior of police, the department of justice’s decent decree is just now being implicated in the department. It’s too early to assess if a much needed cultural change is starting to occur.
There is a pending Department of Justice investigation into the Rice shooting and also the city has not yet released any determination of its supposed administrative review to determine whether the officers will be disciplined or terminated, and we believe this is taking an absurd amount of time. The facts are known. What occurred was on video. It shouldn’t have taken nearly this long for the city to terminate the officers.
I do suspect that the can is being kicked down the road to avoid any adverse public reaction with respect to the Republican National Convention coming to the city. I’m suspicious about it because it really doesn’t take this long, and the mayor has promised that he would not make the family suffer any longer once Prosecutor Timothy McGinty deep-sixed the criminal investigation.
LaTonya Goldsby, 41
Coordinator at Tamir Rice Justice Committee
I've seen little improvements by Cleveland Police here and there. There have been several incidents like Tamir's that have happened since his death by two Cleveland police officers; where children Tamir's age have been caught playing with toy guns, and in public areas but none had the same outcome as Tamir’s did. They all lived to tell their story.
I don't think much has changed since the DOJ report, Tamir's killing happened after the DOJ investigation, so did the deaths of Tanisha Anderson, and Brandon Jones. When you allow agencies to conduct their own investigations into corruption, and violations of their own policies and procedures; then hand these investigations over to their counterparts. They will never find any wrongdoings. The DOJ should be more hands on after they complete their investigations. Allowing these agencies to clean up their own mess only leads to more cover-ups of police misconduct.
Cleveland does a great job with prolonged periods of investigations; 2 years for the Michael Brelo case, 12 months on Tamir's case, still waiting on the Tanisha Anderson case. The violence in this city can not be hidden behind an RNC banner. Police officers violating civil, and human rights of unarmed civilians and killing them in the street can not be hidden behind a RNC banner. When the RNC is over this is still Cleveland; where it's citizens will still be in poverty, hungry, underpaid, undereducated and unheard. The RNC does nothing for the voiceless of Cleveland.