The Police Shooting of 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice Just Took a Horrifying Turn
The news: Reports about the Cleveland police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice released this week raise the question of why the officer was even on the street in the first place.
Tim Loehmann, who fatally shot the boy waving a fake gun at the park two seconds after arriving on the scene, was found unfit for duty two years ago. A letter in Loehmann's personnel file from his brief tenure at the Independence (Ohio) Police Department gave him dismal reviews and pointed out several flaws in the his abilities. These flaws resulted in his eventual resignation.
During Loehmann's time at the suburban police department, he "had issues with handling guns." The Independence Police Department described his behavior during firearms training and qualification as "distracted" and "weepy."
The reports: According to the letter written by Independence police Deputy Chief Jim Polak, obtained by the Northeast Ohio Media Group, "[Loehmann] could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections and his handgun performance was dismal."
Polak went on to say, "I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies."
The Independence police gave Loehmann two choices of action, based on his performance: He could either resign or he would be fired. Loehmann resigned. Then he went on to become a police officer with the Cleveland Division of Police.
Loehmann never should have been hired. While this might seem blatantly obvious from the Independence Police Department's reviews, the Cleveland police department decided to hire him onto the force. They never looked at the review prior to making that decision.
The Cleveland police department's failure to even look at notes on Loehmann's performance at his previous job underscores the fact that they didn't do due diligence before making a hiring decision.
Their excuse for not looking at the Independence police memos on Loehmann? "There is no written policy mandating a review of an applicant's previous employer personnel file," Cleveland Police told BuzzFeed News.
Muddied stories: The Cleveland police said the cop was a rookie, but he'd been on the force for six months in Independence in 2012 and had been working for the Cleveland force since March 2014.
Moreover, Loehmann's reason for joining the Cleveland force – he said he wanted "more action" than the Independence police force offered – was not exactly the complete truth. A quick look at a previous employer's notes on Loehmann could have kept the officer off the streets and possibly saved 12-year-old Tamir Rice's life.
In light of the ever-increasing tensions between police authority and civilians and the recurring question of police's unnecessary use of force in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions, Cleveland's oversight in hiring Loehmann becomes all the graver.
The way to restore trust between the police and the community is to ensure that experienced and fully capable cops are the ones hired. We don't need another officer who is unfit for duty patrolling the streets. And we certainly don't need yet another police confrontation to result in an innocent person's death, let alone a child like Tamir Rice.