Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of the Year Cop Out: Cleveland Tosses Rice Case

Isn't that what you throw on New Year's Eve?

"Tamir Rice’s family and prosecutor quarrel over release of evidence; Cleveland boy’s kin see bias in favor of officers" by Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Mitch Smith New York Times  December 24, 2015

The Cleveland grand jury has been conducting its work in private, investigating the police shooting of a 12-year-old boy named Tamir Rice that set off protests nationwide. But a steady stream of evidence has been trickling out to the public.

When authorities leak things to say public opinion and supply a narrative it's called good reporting.

There was a sheriff’s report that said the rookie officer who killed Tamir felt he had “no choice” because the boy had reached for a pellet gun that looked like a real pistol. There were statements from the officer, Timothy Loehmann, and his partner that they saw the boy pulling the toy from his pants, ignoring warnings to show his hands. And there were reports from three experts called by the prosecutors that concluded that Loehmann had acted reasonably because he believed that Tamir had a real gun and posed a serious threat.

Keep all that in mind for a second.

The release of so much material being reviewed by a working grand jury might be considered unusual, but these were not leaks: The evidence was made public by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor himself, Timothy J. McGinty.

The grand jurors have been meeting for weeks, and it remains unclear whether they will indict Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, in the Nov. 22, 2014, shooting. But the release of critical evidence suggesting that the officers’ actions were reasonable has left many people in Cleveland convinced that no indictments are forthcoming. And that possibility has fueled an unusually bitter feud between McGinty and the people who might have been expected to be his natural allies, the Rice family.

“We have never seen a prosecutor try so hard to lose a case,” said Jonathan S. Abady, a lawyer for Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice. He has accused McGinty of hiring “pro-police experts” to evaluate evidence and faulted him for allowing Loehmann and his partner to read personal statements to the grand jury without being cross-examined. The family has asked the Justice Department to investigate the shooting, a request the department is reviewing.

Across the country, prosecutors are under growing pressure not only to bring charges against officers swiftly after deaths involving the police, but also to make grand jury investigations, normally conducted in secret, more transparent. In Texas, prosecutors have been criticized by the family of Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a jail cell after being arrested in a traffic stop in July, for not releasing information from the grand jury investigating the case. That panel voted not to indict anyone in her death, but it is believed to still be looking into whether to indict the trooper who arrested her.

RelatedGrand jury issues no indictments in Sandra Bland’s death

Also see: This Blog is Bland

The system fails Sandra Bland — again.

Nothing special about that.

Loehmann shot Tamir outside a recreation center as the boy played with the replica pistol given to him by a friend. A 911 caller said a black male was pointing the gun at people. But Loehmann and Garmback were not informed that the caller had also said that the gun was “probably fake” and that Tamir was “probably a juvenile.”

In a series of blistering letters, Rice’s lawyers have accused McGinty of prosecutorial misconduct and demanded that he step aside. McGinty has refused. And he has even appeared to publicly accuse Rice and her lawyers, who are pursuing civil claims against the city, of seeking to profit from her child’s death.


“They’re very interesting peoplewhohave their own economic motives,” McGinty said last month. He later backtracked, saying he was not speaking about Rice. But he condemned her legal team’s “inflammatory attacks on the grand jury process.”

What an A$$HOLE!


"Hopes dim for charges in Ohio case" Associated Press  December 28, 2015

CLEVELAND —The video shows patrol officer Timothy Loehmann, a rookie at the time, shooting Tamir Rice in an instant as the cruiser driven by officer Frank Garmback skids to a stop on Nov. 22, 2014. Tamir died the next day during surgery, and his family has repeatedly questioned why the case has dragged on.

Subodh Chandra, the Cleveland attorney who represents the Rice family in a federal civil rights lawsuit over the shooting, said he has resigned himself to the belief that the officers, both white, won’t be indicted.

‘‘This is apparently how long it takes to engineer denying justice to a family when the video of the incident clearly illustrates probable cause to charge the officer,’’ Chandra said....

A lot longer than it took to shoot him dead.


"Cleveland officers won’t face charges in shooting death of boy; 12-year-old in Cleveland case had toy weapon" by Wesley Lowery and Niraj Chokshi Washington Post  December 29, 2015

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he believes both of the Cleveland officers involved were reasonable in their belief that Rice had a real weapon, and that new analysis of the video of the shooting leaves it ‘‘indisputable’’ that the boy was pulling the weapon from his waistband when he was killed.

‘‘The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it,’’ McGinty said. ‘‘Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.’’

Related"The great question is what an American policeman would have to do to be indicted and convicted.  The issue is very deep as it is juries and grand juries, i.e., everyday Americans, who commit these outrages." --xymphora

(My emphasis) 

Police officers are rarely charged after on-duty shootings. There have been at least 975 police fatal shootings in the United States this year, according to a Washington Post database; officers have been charged with a crime in just eight of those shootings.

Equally split between black and white, btw. (#WhiteLivesDon'tMatter?)

McGinty said the death of Rice did not meet the standard of a crime.

Police appear to be above that in AmeriKa. 

In a statement issued not long after the prosecutor’s announcement, attorneys for Rice’s family decried the grand jury process and renewed their calls for the Department of Justice to bring federal charges.

‘‘It has been clear for months now that Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment,’’ the family attorneys said.

‘‘Even though video shows the police shooting Tamir in less than one second, prosecutor McGinty hired so-called expert witnesses to try to exonerate the officers and tell the grand jury their conduct was reasonable and justified,’’ the attorneys said. “It is unheard of, and highly improper, for a prosecutor to hire ‘experts’ to try to exonerate the targets of a grand jury investigation.’’

Did you SEE THAT? I know you had to LOOK QUICK! They skidded up on the grass

About two dozen protesters gathered Monday in downtown Cleveland and at the Cudell Recreation Center, the westside park where Rice was killed. Some demonstrators held signs demanding ‘‘Justice for Tamir Rice’’ and declaring that the boy was ‘‘stolen by law enforcement.’’

The US attorney’s office for the Northern District of Ohio said Monday that federal officials monitored the grand-jury process, and that the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is currently conducting its own independent investigation into Rice’s death. 

I won't hold my breath for more than a second.

Tamir Rice’s death came just days before massive protests and unrest would break out in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City after officers in those cities were cleared in the deaths of two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

The deadly shooting here prompted a round of protests that at times blocked freeways and interrupted public meetings, with local residents demanding indictments for Loehmann and Garmback. Local activist groups vowed Monday to again take to the streets, and Mayor Frank Jackson urged calm.

On the day of the shooting, the two officers were responding to a call about a young man with a gun who was pointing it at people outside a local recreation center. Although the caller specified to the dispatcher that the person in question was possibly a child playing with a toy, that information was not relayed to the officers and the officers responded to the call as an ‘‘active shooter’’ situation, authorities said.

‘‘The suspect had a gun, had been threatening others with the weapon and had not obeyed our command to show us his hands. He was facing us,’’ Loehmann said in his statement to investigators. He said he then saw Rice’s elbow moving upward, and that the weapon was coming up out of his waistband so he fired two shots.

He had all of one second after they skidded up to him on the grass!

McGinty and other officials from the prosecutor’s office said Monday that they believed the officers’ story, noting that the toy gun appeared identical to a real weapon, that the 12-year-old looked much older than he was, and that both officers behaved in ways consistent with the Cleveland police’s policies for dealing with an ‘‘active shooter’’ situation.

Blame the victim. Big black boy scary.

McGinty said an enhanced video of the shooting showed that Rice was reaching into his waistband and pulling out the toy weapon. 

One second.

McGinty said it was likely that Rice “either intended to hand it to the officers or to show them it wasn’t a real gun. But there was no way for the officers to know that.’’

‘‘Tamir Rice’s death was a heartbreaking tragedy and I understand how this decision will leave many people asking themselves if justice was served,’’ Governor John Kasich said. ‘‘We all lose, however, if we give in to anger and frustration and let it divide us.’’ Kasich is a Republican candidate for president.

Going to hurt his ambitions this is.

US Representative Marcia Fudge, a Democrat, said McGinty’s decision to release pieces of evidence throughout the ongoing investigation tainted the process, and that he should have stepped aside and allowed for a special prosecutor.


"Tamir Rice shooting case not over for Cleveland" by Mark Gillispie Associated Press  December 30, 2015

CLEVELAND — Despite the grand jury decision not to charge a white patrol officer in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, the case is far from over for the city of Cleveland, the officers involved in the shooting, or the black boy’s grief-stricken family.

The family is suing the city, federal prosecutors are looking into possible civil rights charges against Timothy Loehmann and his partner, and the two officers face a departmental investigation that could result in disciplinary action, including firing.

Tamir was carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun when Loehmann shot and killed the boy within two seconds of emerging from his police cruiser in November 2014. On Monday, prosecutors said a grand jury concluded that Loehmann reasonably believed that it was a real gun and that his life was in danger.

Imagine if that double standard was applied to private citizens. 

I think you threaten me. Blam! 

Whatever happened to winging or legging a guy anyway?

The case has stirred racial tensions and added Cleveland to the list of US cities — Ferguson, Mo.; Baltimore; North Charleston, S.C.; and New York City among them — where blacks have died in the past two years at the hands of police. 

I will be covering a few of those before closing out this post.


"A St. Louis police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers Jr. last fall has resigned after being accused of driving his patrol car while intoxicated and crashing into a parked vehicle. Officer Jason Flanery was driving his squad car early Saturday morning when he struck a vehicle and left the scene before officers arrived, police spokeswoman Schron Jackson said. Investigators, acting on a tip, found the vehicle at Flanery’s home, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Flanery refused to submit to a breath-alcohol test, so the department requested a search warrant and officers returned to his home later in the day to have his blood drawn, Jackson said. ‘‘We handled the criminal investigation just as we would anyone in a suspected drunk-driving accident,’’ Chief Sam Dotson told the newspaper late Saturday evening." 

Poor guy.

Also seeFerguson, US near deal to retrain, alter police force

Leaders will have to sell residents on the idea of a federal policing monitor and of huge new expenses for a city that is already struggling financially.

On Tuesday, about 50 people marched peacefully in front of the county courthouse in downtown Cleveland to protest the grand jury decision. Demonstrators chanted, ‘‘Justice for Tamir!’’

In addition to the potential legal and financial consequences is the human cost. Tamir’s mother, Samaria, must live without her son, a happy-go-lucky kid in a man-sized body. Loehmann, Garmback, and other officers were surprised to learn after the shooting that Tamir was just 12.

He was too big for his own good, and she just looking for money!

Family attorney Subodh Chandra said Samaria Rice wept for much of the day after Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty’s announcement that Loehmann and Garmback wouldn’t be charged.

“She doesn’t know what she can do,” Chandra said. “And there are no answers because the prosecutors have foreclosed the possibility of criminal accountability.”

Loehmann’s attorney said the officer bears a heavy burden, too.

“Everybody has this vision of a cold, callous person who shot a 12-year-old,” Henry Hilow said. “Both officers have to live with this the rest of their lives. That memory will never go away.”

Yes, the poor, poor oppressor narrative.

While the US attorney’s office in Cleveland has said it will review the circumstances of the shooting, the legal hurdles to prosecuting a civil rights case are considered especially high.

Meaning they aren't going to do anything.

A law professor as well as a prominent Cleveland civil rights attorney said Tuesday that from both a legal and public relations standpoint, Cleveland has considerable exposure from the federal lawsuit filed by Tamir’s family.

Cleveland’s reputation has suffered because of some well-publicized police shootings, including the killings of two unarmed black people in a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire at the end of a 2012 car chase.

That the Brelo case?

The city settled a lawsuit brought by the victims’ families for a total of $3 million in 2014, months before a criminal case involving one of the officers went to trial. A judge ultimately acquitted the patrolman of manslaughter.


RelatedBoston protest targets Tamir Rice decision, police brutality

Was the SISTER ever called to testify? 

After disposing of that case it's on to Chicago:

"Chicago officer pleads not guilty in death of black teen in 2014" by Mitch Smith New York Times  December 30, 2015

CHICAGO — Protesters have repeatedly marched through downtown. Many of the demonstrators have said Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s overtures, including a task force to study police accountability and repeated criticisms, have been insufficient, and have called for him to resign.

That pressure intensified during Emanuel’s holiday vacation to Cuba, which he cut short this week “so that he can continue the ongoing work of restoring accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department,” a spokeswoman said.


Emanuel returned to Chicago on Tuesday from his family vacation.

On Dec. 26, while the mayor was in Cuba, Chicago police fatally shot two people while responding to a domestic incident.

Good thing there are flights coming back now.

On Sunday, an aide to Emanuel was allegedly assaulted while attending a vigil for the two people who were fatally shot by Chicago police over the weekend at a Sunday vigil for LeGrier and Jones.

Police said no one was arrested.

A spokesman for Emanuel, Adam Collins, said on Tuesday that the office is aware of an ‘‘altercation’’ involving a mayoral staffer....

Smells like a staged event to take the focus off, you know.


RelatedMayor says Chicago police changes will focus on use of force

That mean the torture will stop? 

The $olution is in better training:

"Critics say Chicago police lack enough crisis training; After shootings, mayor reviewing officers program" by Sara Burnett Associated Press  December 29, 2015

Haven't been running enough drills that can be passed off as live, huh?

CHICAGO — In the wake of another police shooting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for an immediate review of how the Chicago Police Department trains officers to respond to calls involving people in crisis or with mental health problems.

But advocates for what’s known as crisis intervention team training say Chicago’s program has been ‘‘starved’’ of resources, with only about 15 percent of officers completing the 40-hour course.

Advocates say they tried to get meetings with Emanuel early in his first term to stress the importance of the training and ask the city to invest more in it, but were ignored. Illinois’ budget crisis also created a lapse, not just in Chicago but elsewhere.

The issue resurfaced last weekend, after officers responding to a domestic disturbance shot and killed a 19-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman.

The deaths of Bettie Jones — who police say was accidentally hit by gunfire — and Quintonio LeGrier occurred just weeks after the Department of Justice opened a civil-rights investigation into Chicago police practices.

Family members of another man, Philip Coleman, had similar questions after officers arrested the 38-year-old in 2012. He later died in police custody.

Coleman’s family said they told officers he was mentally ill and experiencing some type of breakdown. A video released this month shows officers later entering Coleman’s jail cell, using a stun gun on him and then dragging him away.

Where did they think they were, Virginia?

He later died after being given an anti-psychotic drug. Emanuel has said an investigation into how police handled the case is being reopened.

In CIT training, officers learn to identify a person who is in crisis and to deescalate situations. That may mean taking more time for the person to calm down, talking with the person about what’s happening, or finding other resources such as a case manager or mental health clinic rather than making an arrest.

There are more than 2,700 CIT programs in the nation.

Talk about failure.

Amy Watson, an associate professor of social work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been involved with the Chicago Police Department’s program since it formed in 2005 and has conducted two studies on its effectiveness. Her research and other studies have found that officers trained in CIT methods use less force, and are better equipped to defuse crises and reduce the risk of injury. 

So what happened?

Chicago police officials did not respond Monday to a request for information on the number of officers who have received the training. But in 2014, a deputy police superintendent testified before a US Senate committee that about 1,800 officers — or no more than 20 percent of the force — had completed the coursework.

That number is now about 15 percent, according to Watson and Alexa James of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

They say the percentage should be closer to 25 or 35 percent — enough so that there’s a CIT-trained officer on every shift in every police district who can respond to calls as needed.

That coverage is now ‘‘spotty,’’ Watson said.

It’s particularly difficult to find a trained officer on the overnight shift.

‘‘Every officer is trained in how to use a firearm, but not every officer will use their weapon,’’ James said. She said the likelihood of an officer encountering a person in crisis is far greater....


RelatedRelatives of 2 killed by Chicago police question shootings

Also see:

"In Chicago on Monday, a county judge acquitted a city police commander accused of shoving his gun down a suspect’s throat, outlining what she said were flaws in the state’s case and stressing that it shouldn’t be conflated with other recent incidents of alleged police misconduct in the city and elsewhere."

How can it not be, and that leads us to Baltimore:

Baltimore jury considers case against officer in Freddie Gray’s death

It's all smiles, huh!

Judge urges Freddie Gray jurors to keep trying

They gave up:

"Mistrial declared in 1st case on Freddie Gray’s death; Baltimore officer may be retried; City calm as police beef up patrols" by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jess Bidgood New York Times  December 17, 2015

BALTIMORE — The trial of the officer, William G. Porter, was to be the opening to — and a critical building block for — a six-part legal proceeding. The mistrial could complicate the other prosecutions.

A big question now is whether the state will push back driver of the van, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr.’s trial, or decide to retry Porter after the other five officers — or perhaps not retry him at all.

Outside the courtroom after the decision, a local activist, Kwame Rose, used a megaphone to announce the decision, shouting, “They just declared a mistrial!” He quickly added, “Justice has not been served,” and “The system has failed us once again.”

As did the Globe.

"Gray’s death opened a raw wound in Baltimore, a majority-black city with a long history of tension between African-Americans and police. It ripple effects here have been immense. The city paid a $6.4 million settlement to the Gray family.

The Porter trial was closely watched by Black Lives Matter activists across the country, yet its racial dynamics are complex. Deray McKesson, a national leader in the Black Lives Matter movement who lives in Baltimore, said he was heartened by the outcome. “This is a hung jury, it’s not an acquittal,” he said. “That’s important. The prosecution resonated with the jury in some capacity — and that is undeniable.”

That was more my print version. WTF?


"Officer’s mistrial in Gray’s death a letdown for both sides" by Juliet Linderman Associated Press  December 18, 2015

Some are steamed.

BALTIMORE — Instead of a dramatic conclusion to the first of six trials of police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the mistrial left Baltimore in suspense and confusion, with no immediate understanding of what happens next.

The city had braced for a possible repeat of the protests, destruction, and dismay that engulfed the city in April after Gray’s neck was broken in the back of a police van. But several small marches ended peacefully overnight as the community tried to process the news.

Back at square one, prosecutors and defense attorneys met in Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams’ chambers Thursday morning to discuss dates for a possible retrial. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to retry Officer William Porter.

The situation delays closure for an anxious city, and is unfortunate for both sides, said Steve Levin, a Baltimore defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. Now many are wondering what comes next.

Jurors couldn’t decide whether Porter’s failures amounted to a crime. Legal analysts weren’t surprised, given the lack of eyewitnesses and unequivocal evidence showing exactly how or when Gray’s neck was broken.

Prosecutors intended to call Porter to testify against van driver Caesar Goodson and another officer whose trial is slated to begin after Goodson’s. The mistrial may complicate this strategy, since Porter has a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, according to attorney Warren Alperstein.

Options could include granting Porter immunity in exchange for his testimony, trying to persuade the judge to postpone the other trials while retrying Porter, or striking him from their witness list altogether.

David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh with expertise in policing issues, said State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby created a false impression that convictions would be simple to obtain by moving so swiftly after Gray’s death to charge six officers.

‘‘It was never going to be easy. Prosecution of police officers is never easy, but when you look at some of the facts in this case, you’ve got to understand nothing here is a slam dunk,’’ Harris said....

You are lucky if you even hit backboard, never mind making a hoop.


RelatedNew trial date set for officer in Gray case

Looks like the same old drill as this case comes to a halt.

"2015 was one of the safest years for police on record" by Christopher Ingraham Washington Post  December 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — Overall, 124 officers were killed in the line of duty this year. More than one third of those deaths were due to traffic accidents, the largest single cause of officer fatalities. Thirty other officers died of a variety of other causes, including job-related illnesses.

The memorial fund’s numbers square with figures put together earlier this week by Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute, who found that 2015 “is on track to be the second-safest year for US police officers in history,’’ but they contrast sharply with a narrative about a ‘‘war on cops’’ in the wake of demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere in protest of fatal shootings by police. The narrative has been especially popular among Republican presidential contenders.

Even though it’s squarely at odds with the facts, this rhetoric has an effect: A Rasmussen poll in September found that 58 percent of Americans said that there’s a war on police in the United States today....

They aren't the only ones responsible for such feelings.


Now that is something to celebrate, 'eh?!!