Cop Who Killed Tamir Rice Gets To Legally Shoot Children Again We Guess
Timothy Loehmann, the former Cleveland police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice after giving him a whopping two seconds to drop his toy gun (an eternity in "Flash Time"), now has a new job in Bellaire. No, not the Los Angeles neighborhood, but a town just two hours south of the public park where Loehmann killed Rice in 2014. You'd probably have to move further away to start over if you just got some kids sick at your Shaker Square fro-yo stand.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury and Cleveland's Critical Incident Review Commission both agreed that Loehmann's drive-by shooting of Rice was justifiable. Loehmann only lost his job in the first place because he omitted information from his employment application, which is apparently more egregious than omitting black kids from the physical realm. He forgot to mention that he'd once worked for the police department in Independence, Ohio, where he was told he could either quit or be fired.
Bellaire Police Chief Richard "Dick" Flanagan expressed no concerns with hiring a not-entirely honest, trigger-happy killer of children.
"He was cleared of any and all wrongdoing," Flanagan said of Loehmann. "He was never charged. It's over and done with."
"It" was a child named Tamir Rice. He wasn't "menacing," as the Cleveland police union president claimed. He was playing with a toy gun, as I understand kids are wont to do, in a state where it's legal to openly carry an actual gun, and now instead of learning to drive, he's dead. Unlike the powerful men recently accused of sexual misconduct, Tamir and his family's lives were objectively ruined.
Why is Flanagan so hot to hire Loehmann anyway? The guy sucks at being a cop. If killing children isn't grounds for a career change, how about the scathing performance review from the Independence PD that Loehmann accidentally on purpose forgot used to employ him? Deputy Chief Jim Polak noted in Loehmann's personnel file that he was "weepy" and "distracted" -- not while making love, mind you, but during firearms training.
"He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal," Polak wrote in 2012.
Polak recommended that Loehmann should leave the department.
"I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies."
This is also why it's so galling that Loehmann never faced charges for Rice's shooting. It's one thing for a doctor to screw up and kill a patient on the operating table, but if they lied about their shady professional history to get the job in the first place, their actions are arguably criminal.
Flanagan also hired Eric Smith, the suspended Bethesda, Ohio, police chief who is currently under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General's office. It's alleged that Smith "misused" the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, the computer system officers use to share criminal justice data. That's a felony, y'all. Bethesda residents also wanted Smith removed from office just for being an unstable creep. Local businessman Joel Braido described Smith's style of law enforcement as "strong-armed, disrespectful, [and] untruthful."
It's astonishing that Flanagan would hire Loehmann and Smith, given their pasts. It's like the villain in Duck Soup giving Chico and Harpo "another chance" at "spy stuff." This might be an endearing setup for a 1980s sitcom pilot, but in real life, it's reckless disregard for public safety.
Flanagan does admit to having some reservations about Smith, who didn't shoot a black child but mishandled a valuable computer system: "No one wanted to hire this guy anywhere — even his best friend who is a chief up north." But Flanagan will make sure there's no funny business by forbidding Smith to use a computer. Does this mean Loehmann won't be issued a firearm? Bellaire could be looking at some old-school law enforcement. Cops busting out slide rules and walking the beat with slingshots.
Flanagan said [,] "Everyone has got to prove themselves. I try to prove every day that I am capable of being the police chief. Everybody makes mistakes.
Unfortunately for Tamir Rice, Loehmann's "mistake" was fatal, and there's no second chance for Tamir.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."