Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Don't Ever Call the Cops: The Tamir Rice Story

    The Tamir Rice story, and the irresponsible decision not to prosecute his killers, is breaking my heart. And while the worst sufferers are Tamir's family, I have found myself thinking, ever since he died, about the poor soul who called 911. That person was just trying to do the right thing, but the positive, neighborly gesture led to disaster. Calling 911 brought the Cleveland Police, and because the police came a child died. Everything would have better if the police had not come.

    I wonder about that 911 caller, who did the right thing and will have to wrestle with guilt because in Cleveland that became the wrong thing. The 911 call specifically said that the person in the park was probably a kid and the gun was probably a fake. Those caveats got stripped away, and the police rolled right up on the poor boy, got out of their patrol car car, and immediately shot him dead. Then they stood around let the child bleed to death.

    Before we go through the apologists' spin doctoring, let's remember three things:
    1. Tamir got shot within two seconds of the police's arrival. They did not give him time to comply with any order. I do not think they gave the boy time even to comprehend their orders.
    2. The fake gun was still tucked in Tamir's belt when he was killed. The police never saw it in his hand.
    3. Even Tamir had been a grown man with an actual pistol, THAT IS NOT AGAINST THE LAW in Ohio. Ohio, for better or worse, is an open-carry state, which means that people have the legal right to carry a gun openly in parks. The cops shot him dead although there was no crime being committed, and no appearance of a crime being committed.

    That is to say, there was no crime being committed until the cops arrived. The police themselves became the menace, not for the first time in Cleveland, destroying the civil peace they were sworn to protect.

    And that leads us back to the problem of the 911 caller. Because one of the practical lessons here is: do not call the police. They are too dangerous. What should be the safe and neighborly thing to do has the most gruesome unintended consequences, because the police turned a kid fooling around on a playground into violent death. I'm sure that caller won't be quick to call the cops back to the neighborhood. How could you be?

    And this is just one particularly stark and ugly example of the ways that bad cops destroy good cops' ability to do their jobs. Police work depends on neighborhood cooperation. Always has, always will. It's impossible to solve most crimes without neighbors providing tips and serving as witnesses. (The prevalence of CSI-style procedurals on TV is partly about denying this fact. In the real world, solving a felony with DNA evidence alone is rare.) Keeping peace and preventing crime depends on neighbors being willing to call 911. When you teach a neighborhood not to call the cops and not to trust the cops, because the cops themselves have proved themselves untrustworthy, you are making real police work nearly impossible.

    It's not justice or peace. The police are sworn to uphold both. By endangering the citizens they are sworn to protect, they not only pervert their sworn charge, but make it impossible for any peace officer to do the job correctly.


    The inability to indict or convict police officers confirms what the black community has been saying about the police for decades. In Chicago, an innocent woman who opened the door for police was killed by trigger-happy police. These officers were operating in an atmosphere after a Chicago police officer had been caught on tape shooting a suspect in the back and after the suspect was on the ground. Police realize that they face little likelihood of prosecution. Police realize that their unions will fight to keep bad cops on the force. Local prosecutors will only rarely file charges against police. The officer who shot Tamir Rice had Ben dismissed from another police force because he could not properly handle a gun or follow instructions. Calling 911 is a dangerous act.

    The inability to indict or convict police officers confirms what the black community has been saying about the police for decades.

    This is an important point rmrd. What's happening is not new. There have been reports of police abuse and killings for decades. The only change is now there is often video that contradicts the police story. When cameras started going up everywhere at first I was worried about government abuse of the ability to watch the citizens. I still worry about that but now I think the benefits that come from citizens ability to watch the police outweigh the risks.

    No, the other change is we've militarized the police into SWAT teams, plus tasers, vicious police dogs and excess military equipment to police depts all across the USA. An ugly side effect of our wars abroad, coming to a precinct near you.

     Because one of the practical lessons here is: do not call the police. They are too dangerous.

    This doesn't tend to happen in the UK where most police officers do not routinely carry guns.  Guns are not necessary for the vast majority of police work.  We should disarm our police.  That will be more effective than any amount of training or hoping for a cultural solution.

    The good doctor brings up some good points and some questionable ones and there are others that should be examined.

    From what i have read the police were called because Tamir Rice was threatening people in the park with a weapon, it was a weapon not a toy even if it was nonlethal and it was modified to appear as a lethal weapon. It is illegal, probably everywhere, for someone to threaten anyone with a weapon lethal or not, child or adult. The 911 caller's statement that the weapon was probably a fake was an opinion and if they were sure it was fake they could have confronted the child and disarmed or sent him home.

    The rookie cop was fresh from training that taught him to react not think, that comes with experience if ever, when confronted with a weapon and the testimony to the Grand Jury stated that Rice was ordered to raise his hands but instead he reached for his weapon, who knows why. If this is true the GJ couldn't come to any verdict but the one they returned, if Rice had time to reach for his weapon he had time to not move or begin to raise his hands. I'm not apologizing for this cops over reaction or killing of a child but this is an outlier incident in the middle of a racially biased and ongoing series of obvious murders of unarmed Black men and women and there is probably racial bias in this incident also.

    I think there should be charges filed against the person who supplied Rice with this weapon and who modified it to appear lethal. I would also like to know who told Tamir Rice it was OK to point a dangerous, if not lethal, weapon at anyone especially on the streets of Cleveland.

    Did you just actually write that a toy gun is the same as a weapon?

    That is not legally true. Not even close. (Armed robbery with a fake gun is an armed robbery, but a kid on a playground with a toy gun does not, legally, have a weapon.)

    It is not factually true. Every child knows the difference.

    It is not morally true. Anyone accusing a child with a toy of committing a crime is behaving viciously.

    It is not common sense. If toy guns were no different from weapons, no one would make toy guns.

    All your argument demonstrates is your bad faith: your willingness to say anything, no matter how bankrupt or incoherent, in order to reject the plain truth.

    The real difference here is the difference between you and an honest man. It's not even close.



    It is also true that the police officer who shot Tamir Rice was fired from a small police force because he could not follow commands and unable to handle a firearm properly. The Cleveland police hired an incompetent and in effect killed Tamir Rice.

    Doc, if what i read is accurate Tamir Rice was threatening people with an Airsoft pistol which is not a toy but and exact replica pellet gun designed and used for recreation warfare competitions not for children's play, it's also used by police for training and it is capable of inflicting injury especially to the eyes.

    I know this is an emotional tragedy  and i don't excuse the cop for his overreaction but it is not a simple cop shoots child story, multiple mistakes led to this incident.


    Cleveland PD gave a gun to an incompetent man. End of story. There was no time for Tamir Rice to respond to any command.

    Edit to add:

    A judge found that there's was enough evidence to file a murder charge.

    Sadly, when it comes to the gun Tamir had, Peter is right. There's another question here that warrants discussion: why do kids have guns like these? They are not play guns from the good ole John Wayne wannabe days. Even the most "innocent" of BB guns are now manufactured to appear as realistic as possible. Frankly, the difference between lethal and non has become micro in the age of shoot first and investigate later.

    A judge found enough evidence to go to trial. The fault lies with the prosecutor.

    Edit to add: 

    Ohio is an open carry state.

    Here is how cops deal with white folks

    2nd Edit

    When a prosecutor puts a case before a grand jury, the decision has been made to prosecute the case. The Cleveland prosecutor was biased in favor of the police. Here are comments from a former prosecutor

    Tamir Rice was not responsible for his death. The murder of Tamir Rice is the fault of the Cleveland Police Department.

    I'm not disputing what I believe to be the illegality of the Rice murder. My point was the gun itself, and how the realistic aspect of it played into the tragedy - especially when it came to the GJ (and others) deliberations. We can rightfully argue many aspects, but that the toy looked real isn't one of them. It's a ridiculous mitigating factor in police shootings that should not be.

    I never said a damn thing about it looked.

    It was legal for him to have real gun. If he'd actually had a real pistol, this would still be murder.

    I wasn't referencing anything you did or didn't say, I was responding to rm.

    The fact that Tamir was murdered is, once again, not at issue here. What ultimately caused his death was not a gun of any sort in his hand but officers who gave no thought to procedure or human life. Period. What I'm questioning is why we aren't paying any attention to toys that lead to insane consequences - outside and within this one circumstance.

    An orange cap? Seriously?

    To add to the mix, kids often get their parents' Guns just as they frequently try blowing themselves up with home chemistry experiments. A child with weapon is not de facto harmless (anymore?). But then cops don't seem to have any variety in responses anymore - binary attack mode.

    Binary attack mode. So do we give them yet another "out" in the judicial arena by sanctioning realistic toys? And what of the parent's gun in the closet that looks just like their fake - do kids know the difference?

    Crazy science experiments, on the other hand, rarely lead to death by cop or otherwise ... though many a kid has faced an outraged mom (which has its own consequences).

    How often do kids get offed by police for fake guns? Do we make all toy guns look stupid to prevent this possibility? It's an option.

    Crazy science experiments do lead to a variety injuries, maybe death - can't find easy stats on this. I know a couple of mine could have led to the morgue sans a bit of luck.

    There may have been some temporary satisfaction for Tamir's family and others if the cop responsible for this shooting had been prosecuted or if  better training is instituted  but neither of those or any other 'reform' will change what our racist policing system is and will continue to be, part of and in service to a racist government and society.

    Some Black activists are addressing this fact but few Whites will even acknowledge it exists while the killing of unarmed Black people continues along with their economic exploitation and social repression.



    If Trayvon Martin had not worn a hoodie, he would be alive.

    If Walter Scott had not run, he would be alive.

    If Eric Garner had not resisted, he would not have been choked to death..

    If John Crawford had not picked up a toy gun legally sold in Walmart , he would not have been murdered within seconds after police arrived.

    If Sandra Bland had been more respectful, she would still be alive.

    All the above excuses are nonsense. The toy gun diversion is nonsense. The bottom line is that black lives are devalued and people try to place blame on victims. Ohio is an open carry state. Kids will play with toy guns because guns are part and parcel of US culture. One of the police officers who shot Tamir Rice was not qualified to carry a gun, That officer has not been fired to my knowledge. He continues to be a threat to the black community.

    Focusing on the gun is a diversion.

    If you stop thinking of the color of the gun as an excuse or as a mitigating factor but as a separate or at most a peripheral issue it's not a diversion. I don't think barefoot is trying to justify the cops behavior by focusing on the gun. The cops were wrong regardless of the realistic nature of the toy gun. But she's right, toy guns should not be realistic copies. They should be designed to look obviously like toys.

    States have right to carry laws. The look of the gun is a side issue. Here are article about legal rifles sold for use by kids Field & Stream Outdoor Life Here is the legal ad for kid rifles at the Henry Repeating Rifle website

    An innocent black child is killed. The justice system fails to provide justice. Instead of addressing systemic racism, we ask what black children can do to keep from getting shot. We make excuses. Society always fails black children. We blame black children when they are murdered by police. First it was hoodies, then it was not touching BB guns in a Walmart. Now it is creating a special set of toy guns for black children. One day, we will get around to addressing the judicial system.

    A special set of toy guns for black children? Who suggested that?

    Your reference to the Walmart murder is apropos; the young man was black and the gun was fake, realistic and on the shelf. Which of those factors can be changed? While much deeper and far-reaching issues must be addressed, can't we spend a moment on the low hanging fruit?

    "The look of the gun is a side issue." "If you stop thinking of the color of the gun as an excuse or as a mitigating factor but as a separate or at most a peripheral issue it's not a diversion." You should look up the definition of peripheral. You'll discover it means the same as "side issue." Your weak vocabulary and low reading comprehension is causing you to create an argument where one doesn't exist.

    Playing ref here, too pedantic - rmrd noted the look of the gun peripheral to open carry laws, not just the Tamar Rice killing incident - there's a huge dichotomy that whites can walk around with semiautomatic weapons and police will interact with them respectfully, calmly and leave them their weaponS to walk around some more and scare people. A black kid with a gun - fake or not - or a black man even with a small knife or even reaching into his pocket, is considered a deadly menace requiring deadly response. (of course knives Aar "arms" as well)

    Everybody is acknowledging that. The idea that toy guns should be recognizably toys isn't a new idea. It's been talked about for decades. It's a common sense safety regulation that instead of doing something about we've been going in the opposite direction with toy guns getting more not less realistic.

    You purposefully miss the point. Police do not respect black life. That is the cancer that effects the justice system. Going after the low hanging fruit is like thinking you cured a cancer with a biopsy of a lymph node. We live in a gun culture. There are legal courses for kids to learn gun safety. The gun remains a diversion. As has been noted white people with semi-automatic weapons are treated differently that black children with toy guns. A more recent example of the racism in the justice system is the new big push to make heroin use a medical issue rather than a criminal issue. The recent big push came when heroin use among white citizens increased. Their is a double standard. Black heroin abusers are called thugs. We have even seen a white teenager who plowed down and murdered four people get a light sentence because he was to rich to realize the difference between right and wrong. That would never happen with a black teenager I stand by my position that systemic racism killed Tamir Rice. The prosecutor never considered Tamir Rice's family as members of Cleveland society seeking justice from the people's lawyer. Racism is the problem, not the gun. I'm sorry that my frankness upsets you.

    Sorry about the lack of spacing I'm posting from my iPad

    I agree with your point 'Police do not respect Black life' but that must include some Black police, local Black administrators and even mayors along with the Democrat administrations that control many of the cities with large Black populations. The occupying forces, police, are not the cancer just the visible symptom of a system built on the cancer of racism and it is a top down authoritarian structure.

    There have been a number of murders by police of unarmed Black men, and a few White men, that are clearly racist or authoritarian summary executions and this tragic death of Tamir Rice may share some of those characteristics but he was armed with a real weapon and he had frightened people in the park, enough that someone called the police, using that weapon to threaten people which is a crime.

    I'm not in any way inferring that his killing was justified or necessary but something very strange was happening in Tamir Rice's life that day that put him on a deadly collision course with an unstable rookie cop in that park.

    Prosecutors represent the State first and foremost and their job is to represent and protect the State, people are secondary and the police are part of the State.


    Prosecutors represent the State first and foremost and their job is to represent and protect the State, people are secondary and the police are part of the State.

    This is ridiculous and indicative of your conspiracy theory mindset. Prosecutors represent the people in that their goal is to punish crime. By far the vast amount of their time is spent punishing crime that the overwhelming majority of people want punished. We could debate whether punishing crime is the most effective deterrent but that is what the people want. Many of the failures of the justice system is caused by a lack of resources. For most prosecutors there is never a time they need to choose whether to protect the state or punish crime.

    Prosecutors don't protect bad cops to protect the state. They protect them because they are colleagues. They need the cops to do their job and they also have friendly collegial relationship with at least some of the upper echelon cops. Prosecutors don't want to do anything that damages that friendly working relationship.



    There may be an abstract way in which your rebuttal to mrd is or should be correct but in fact it just does not reflect reality. 

    Prosecutors represent the State first and foremost> and their job is to represent and protect the State, people are secondary >and the police are part of the State.

    Ridiculous? Hardly. The first part of that statement is absolutely correct [and so to ridicule it is ridiculous] and the second part is, in almost every case, the reality we live in, and is a reality that causes disproportionate grief in minority communities. And finally, the third part, “the police are part of the State”, is also absolutely true in fact and by definition. When the title of a transcript of a court case reads, The State vs DeShawn Washington”, for example, there is in fact a representative of the State who ‘represents’ the State in an attempt to get a conviction. That representative is the prosecutor. “Prosecutors represent the people in that their goal is to punish crime”. In an actual trial the ‘people’ is differentiated from the State and is an individual, as is the prosecutor. and the goal of the State, through the very imperfect prosecutor who is and must be in almost every instance a political operator, is to get a conviction. The method of the prosecutor is not to lay out a full case but rather the part that will convict the defendant. It is up to the defendant’s representative to defend against the case made by the State which is based on evidence gathered by an organ of the State, the police. Ideally, if the representation of the people of which the individual is a part was the goal there would be an honest pursuit of the truth and there would not be the huge numbers of prosecutorial malfeasance done for the purpose of getting a conviction when the truth would set someone free. In a more ideal situation [as opposed to the reality of our adversarial legal system] after the ‘truth’ was determined and when that truth is that a crime had been committed by the defendant, the judge, often with input from the jury and who is  the one who decides the punishment, would determine appropriate punishment. Appropriate punishment [forget rehabilitation or correction] is extremely subjective and the very common failure to overcome biases of one sort or another in its determination is too obvious.

    Any part of that imperfect system can be made more imperfect by corruption whether the corruption is deliberate or merely the representation of the common and ordinary imperfections of ordinary people. That the system is in fact often, if not usually, corrupted is obvious and there are many theories as to why that is the case. Some theories involve conspiracies among elements of the State which share motives. I bet you could, in about a minute, find and post an example of corruption by the legal system that did actually involve a de facto conspiracy by elements of State law enforcement agencies. I know I could. 


    The theory is that the state represents the people. We can argue to what degree the "state" truly represents the people and likely often agree, but in the case of law enforcement in the vast majority of the cases it clearly expresses the will of the vast majority of the people. In fact the people want the legal system to be more brutal than it is and when politicians have to choose between what's good for the "state" or the people they pander to them and enact stricter laws and punishments than is good for the "state."

    It's true that I could find instances where prosecutors supported the state in hiding corruption but most prosecutors never face that choice. I could find many more instances where a judge was lenient and the people screamed for blood.

    You can play with words all you want but the reality is the legal system represents the will of the people more than any other part of government, with all the brutal punishments and desire for revenge that the people seek. That's why it's so hard to civilize law enforcement, and the prison and legal system. This is what the people want. I think it's your post that doesn't reflect the reality of the situation.

    No you purposefully miss the point. Virtually everyone here already agrees about police abuse and the failures of the legal system. No one is arguing the points you're bringing up. Except for your gross "misunderstanding" that someone suggested black kids get different toy guns than white kids.

    As a side issue do you think it's a good thing that toy guns are realistic copies of real guns or would it be a good thing if there were regulations requiring toy guns look obviously like toys?

    We need to attack the real problem, racism in the judicial system. Tamir Rice was killed within seconds of arrival of the police. John Crawford III was killed seconds after police saw him talking on a cell phone in Walmart.

    Neither murder was a crime. Given the short time span between arrival of the police and the murders, I see nothing that assures me that the police would have seen an orange tag or anything other than a lethal object in the hands of some black thugs. Police always see weapons when black people are involved. Amadou Diallo was unarmed but felled by 41 bullets from the NYPD who were looking for another man.

    Changing the way toy guns look is like putting lipstick on a pig. No lives will be saved. We have to address the problem of systemic racism.

    I knew you wouldn't answer the question since an honest answer would force you to admit barefoot is right. Are you saying that the trend of making toy guns as realistic as possible is a good thing and should continue? As I said safety experts have advised making toy guns a bright color for decades. Long before BLM, Tamir and others. It's not a new idea it's a common sense safety regulation. You're so far off the deep end you even claimed people were suggesting different types of toy guns for blacks and whites. This conversation is too stupid to continue.

    I answered your question. Your powers of comprehension are lacking. No my child was not told not to play with realistic guns. A change in toy gun design is not the solution to the problem. Police kill with seconds of arrival. They do not have enough time to recognize I real gun from a toy gun. They see an object an they kill black people. The police kill unarmed people at much higher rates than they kill children with toy guns. They see an object in the hands and they fire.

    My child played with realistic looking guns. Fortunately, police patrols were infrequent, So my child survived. Here is a list of 20 unarmed black men killed by police. Changing toy gun design would not have saved their lives.

    We need police training and reform. We need independent prosecutors. Once we get to core issues, then we can deal with toy guns.

    I think you mentioned black officers kill unarmed black people. You are correct. There are black officers facing trial in Baltimore for the death of Freddie Gray. I hope they go to prison.

    BTW, PP understood my point about special guns. You still cannot comprehend.

    Of the 18 officers charged with homicide in the shooting of unarmed people, none involved a child with a toy gun.

    One case involved the homicide of an unarmed autistic child sitting in his father's vehicle. Toy gun changes would not have saved the child's life. We have to attack out of control, poorly trained police officers to prevent carnage. We have to go after the infected rootstock, not low hanging fruit.

    You are correct on most of this topic but still don't seem to comprehend that the Cops are well trained and conditioned to perform their duty exactly as they are doing it now. Haven't you noticed how many of them, the latest the killer Rahm was protecting in Chicago, empty their weapon into their victims, this is a trained reaction to assist in their defense. Many of them have had FBI and other advanced training from private contractors including the Israelis. As we have seen for the last forty years more training and so called reforms have changed nothing for the better, in fact the carnage and repression have increased.

    The real tell is that this carnage and repression is peaking after the violent crime rate has dropped dramatically from the highs of the seventies.


    The change is that the police are losing the total support they had in the white community

    Sorry RM but Whitey's on the Moon, still and the rhetoric you hear is empty of action or any real admission of the problem being systemic.

    It isn't simply a stat determined by officers charged, since obviously those numbers are woefully inadequate overall. It isn't just about Tamir Rice - he'd have been murdered if he was holding a doll (assuming someone found it threatening enough to call 911). It most certainly is not a panacea for anything. What it is is twofold: a) take away an easy police defense, and b) possibly save lives with a relatively simple change.

    Excellent point about the deaths. California can be a test state for whether the color change is actually effective. I believe that in many cases cops would fire quickly. and would just see a potentially lethal object.  I think cops are incompetent and poorly trained. You assume they will be able to determine a toy gun by color.

    By the way there are multi-colored guns that are real. The link goes to an article that details the death of a child who shot himself with a real gun that was pink in color. It also pictures other real guns with pleasing colors

    Here is another article detailing the same problem.

    Multicolor does not mean the gun wont be considered real by law enforcement. Actually an enterprising criminal could create a business detailing guns to make them multi-color and "safe".

    Aside from the fact that multi-color does not mean safe, we have the problem of open carry states. Real guns are legal in those localities


    You assume they will be able to determine a toy gun by color.

    Honestly, rm, I'm not assuming anything. But I'm hoping that a cop's defense that a pink gun caused him to fear for his life might not be taken quite so seriously. And I'm hoping that a transparent or green gun might stop the murdering bullet-by-cop death in the first place.

    Yes, sadly any good regulation or "rule" can be twisted by those with the intent to do so. But is that reason not to try?

    They will try in California, other states may follow. We will see the results. I don't trust the police to follow an order. The choke hold used on Eric Garner was not NYPD policy. Garner was choked, there was no conviction. Police will shot if they are trained to shot rapidly before they can really focus on the color of an object. They arrive expecting to see danger, and they will see danger.

    I would spend more time on getting independent prosecutors, not keeping bad cops, on the force, and retraining officers.

    I'm more worried about clocks as "science projects" that look like Keystone Kops-vintage bombs rather than chip + LED readout fitting the Raspberry Pi age of circuit design. But yeah, I probably wouldn't let my kid run around America with realistic looking weapons, but then I don't know alternatives in stores. We had bb gun and pellet fights when I was a kid - not too many eyes put out much less police intervention.

    Is this real or a copy or just too bizarre? 1964 7-in-1 model over at Digbys, when boys were boys and wars were wars and everyone understood the purpose of fire power.

    The video alone provides probable cause to believe the cop who shot Tamir Rice murdered him regardless of whether the dispatcher communicated that Rice was likely a minor and wielding a toy pistol.  Even giving the cop the benefit of every doubt, manslaughter charges should have been brought as the act of pulling up so close to Tamir and getting out of the car was an act of reckless indifference or criminal neglect.

    In every case involving an officer who shoots or kills, an independent prosecutor needs to be tasked with the investigation and deciding whether to bring charges.  Here the Cuyahoga County D.A. was conflicted by virtue of his close working relationship with the police.

    This is such an important and overlooked part of the adverse consequences of this tragedy. Thanks for writing it.

    Your mention of "open carry" in Ohio reminds me of the law that's coming into effect in Texas, with the mandate that state universities accept it on campus.

    It is particularly galling---because private universities don't have to accept the mandate---that SMU, that hotbed of Republican hard core conservatives has elected to decline the privilege of open carry on campus---thereby protecting these mostly privileged students.

    Even the police are not properly trained to live and work in the new weaponized society that has been building since 2001. It's a new thing that needs new rules. How would police in Texas handle such an event, when it is possible that there could be 20 or 30 people near-by, all with guns evident?

    Fortunately Tarantino answers your rhetorical question.

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