By Michelle Seiler-Tucker, Special for USDR
About three months ago, Tamir Rice, a 12-year old playing with a pellet gun, was shot dead by Cleveland police. The city’s police department officially responded on Friday to the Rice family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the city, stating that the boy’s death was a direct result of his own actions. Despite the 911 call describing someone with a gun, but warning that the gun might be a fake, surveillance footage shows a Cleveland police patrol car stopping near the 12-year old, and an officer shooting the boy as soon as they pull up to him.
The Rice family’s lawsuit accuses the officers of using excessive force, of not taking proper medical care of the boy after he had been shot, and of tackling his 14-year-old sister when she tried to help him. This controversial announcement by the city of Cleveland occurred just prior to online footage showing another police shooting of a homeless man in Los Angeles over the weekend. Between these recent events and the ongoing investigations in Ferguson, Missouri, this past year has been a profound one regarding growing concerns over police force mentalities and whether there may be institutionalized behavior propagating police academies and their constituents.
While I think it important to protect our police officers from legal technicalities for when they are forced to act accordingly in situations where they feel their life is at risk, I also think that when bad things happen between an officer and an innocent citizen that such situations are typically the result of bad or missed communications—whether this be the cause between the officer and dispatch or the victim and the officer varies by case. Regarding the shooting in Cleveland, Dispatch did not communicate to the Cleveland police officer that the gun was noted to possibly be a fake. This could have led to higher anxieties and caution by the police officer. Nevertheless, what I am sure of is that it would be in every department’s best interest to invest in police cameras for each officer on duty to be required to always wear. Following the racially charged shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, all police officers are now sporting video cameras.
Why did states not act to implement this change for all departments? This is the digital age. These controversial police shootings will happen again. Let’s take the mystery and controversy out by protecting both the police officer and the citizen by adding the element of body cameras. Meanwhile, details of the most recent shooting of the homeless man in Los Angeles are still unclear. There are rumors that the man reached for the officer’s gun. Such action would authorize the police officer to shoot the man. Similar aspects of this surround the ongoing investigation of Michael Brown too. Lastly, the story of the little boy in Cleveland: it is just does not seem likely based on the footage that the police officer actually gave the boy three verbal commands to put his hands up and drop the weapon, since the patrol car hadn’t even fully stopped before the gun went off.
As a business woman and mother, I pay my taxes and hope that they are put to good use. The underlying notion is that whirling a gun around in America—no matter whether it is real or fake—scares people. The reality is that it was more likely to have been a real gun versus a fake gun. Guns are one of the top causes of death in this country. And too often the wrong people get their fingers around the triggers of loaded gun, resulting in some of this nation’s worst tragedies. Ultimately, gun control issues in the US are still a very big issue that remains to be addressed too.