Tamir Rice’s Death Was Not the Result of “The Perfect Storm”

tamir-riceToday we learned that the police officer who killed Tamir Rice will not be indicted for his murder. When explaining the decision not to indict, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim 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.”

So…the Perfect Storm caused Tamir’s demise, eh? I’ve been sitting with that, and here’s the conclusion I’ve reached:

The “Perfect Storm” theory  is bullshit.

I am infuriated by the dismissive nature of that concept. This so-called “perfect storm of human error, mistakes, and miscommunications” is a bullshit excuse used to explain away the fact that a little boy playing by himself was murdered in broad daylight by an officer of the PEACE, whose job it is to PROTECT the innocent. And as a mother, I am horrified and terrified and ashamed that I live in a country where we just looked another mother in the eye and told her that there will be no one held accountable for the fact that she will never again have the opportunity to hold her little boy in her arms. I am horrified and terrified and ashamed that Tamir Rice is no longer living, and we just threw our hands up, shrugged our shoulders, and said to his mother, “Whoopsies! Sorry…it was a ‘perfect storm’ that killed your baby in cold blood.”

No.

This was not a perfect storm. A perfect storm implies that there were forces of nature at work beyond our control. This is not a perfect storm because at every step along the way, someone could have changed this little boy’s fate. This was not a force of nature, this was systemic racism and negligence and a lack of respect for human life.

Let’s look at just a couple of things that could have kept Tamir Rice alive.

First off, let’s address the sorry state of affairs between police and citizens — particularly citizens of color — in Cleveland. Tamir’s death occurred in a place where there was (/is) serious racial discord and significant enough concern over the practices of police officers to warrant an investigation:

The investigation by six Justice Department lawyers, plus several independent policing experts, found that systemic deficiencies and practices haunt the city’s police department. The problems include insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community.

The 58-page letter paints a woeful portrait of rogue officers pulling their guns and firing at suspects without justifiable cause, of beating defenseless suspects already in handcuffs, and of covering up their actions by failing to write accurate police reports — if they write any reports at all.

Y’all. This is not a perfect storm. This is not a force of nature. This is a preventable and abominable problem that led to the violent, unnecessary death of an 11 year old child playing at the park.

So, we have, in general, a poorly trained, undisciplined police force with insufficient supervision and accountability practices. It should come as no surprise, then, that the officer who shot Tamir was subpar and ill-equipped for his duty as a public servant. We now know this about the officer who shot Tamir:

“…Loehmann had washed out from the police force in the Cleveland suburb of Independence. Loehmann had “dismal” handgun performance, broke down in tears at the gun range and was emotionally immature, according to files. He quit the force before he could be fired.”

Again, this is not the result of a perfect storm. This is the result of negligent hiring practices and subpar officers being given the opportunity to brandish guns and shoot our children. I reject your Perfect Storm theory, Mr. McGinty, and urge you to reevaluate the blamelessness of the Cleveland PD in this tragedy.

Additionally, we now know that the 911 operator did not pass along the information correctly and failed to alert the police to the fact that Tamir was likely carrying a toy weapon. This is a huuuuuuge problem, and, unlike a force of nature, this problem was preventable in that, given the correct information about the fact that Tamir’s gun was probably a toy, perhaps the officers would have made different, less tragic choices. Again, this was not a “perfect storm”; it was a real mistake that had fatal consequences.

I feel like I could go on and on and on with example after example of factual reasons why this little boy should still be alive, but, frankly, I am emotionally exhausted and, as proven by the lack of indictment, the facts really don’t matter anyway. Add Tamir Rice’s name to the list of the remembered…the list of black lives that matter to us even if they do not matter in a court of law. And although the facts clearly don’t matter in court, here’s another fact for you: We live in a country where killing an innocent little boy who was playing with a toy gun at the park within 2 seconds of arriving at the scene was just deemed legal. Let that sink in. A police officer legally pulled up to a park, pulled out his weapon, and ended a child’s life after 2 seconds of interaction, and in this country that “does not indicate criminal conduct.” Seriously, y’all. What the fuck? I’m disgusted and heartbroken that this could be true.

As I’m sure you can infer, when I think about Tamir, I see him through the eyes of a mother. I think about his family, and about the piece of their soul that was violently ripped from them just over a year ago. I think specifically about his mom. What she must have felt…what she is still feeling…about the boy whose meals she prepared and whose clothes she washed, and how absolutely everything in her life is probably somehow tied to her little boy. Maybe her little boy would have grown up to cure cancer. Or maybe he would have been a professional athlete. Or maybe he would have been just an average guy — the neighbor with a kind heart that helped a kid get her cat out of a tree, or your friend with an easy laugh and a listening ear. We’ll never know who he could have been because his life was cut unnecessarily short by the very people charged to protect him.

I think of Tamir’s mother often. I mourn with her. I rage with her. I remember with her.

This is about Tamir, but it is also about our nation’s children. This could have easily been your brother. Or your son. Or your child’s best friend. As a nation, it’s time to rise up and come together and say ENOUGH. It’s not ok that police are able to kill our children at our parks in the middle of the day with no repercussions. Enough. It’s not ok that Tamir Rice is deceased because a man who swore to protect and serve him instead pulled up and shot him dead after assessing the situation for literally two seconds. Enough. Enough with the excuses. Enough with the Perfect Storm bullshit. We can’t let this be ok. We just can’t.

It’s time to begin rebuilding broken relationships and strengthening the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood in our communities. It’s time to acknowledge that, yes, black lives matter AND blue lives matter, BUT to do that we need to understand that while the two are not mutually exclusive, black lives are being taken by blue lives at an unacceptable rate and officers are not being held accountable. The only way to even begin to repair the damage done in these communities is to hold the people who cause terror and death responsible for their actions. Tamir should not have died, and a force of nature did not kill him. This was not the result of a “perfect storm.” Rather, it was the tragic culmination of events that we as Americans should find unacceptable. We should all be ashamed that there will be no justice for Tamir.

America, we can and must do better.

8 responses to “Tamir Rice’s Death Was Not the Result of “The Perfect Storm”

  1. Great response, Kalani. Thanks for taking this “perfect storm” idea apart so thoroughly. As you point out so well, this is just a convenient way to wave away all the awful decisions that could have been (and should have been) made differently.

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  2. So easily they called the death of an innocent child a “perfect storm”. This isn’t fair. You have a great response towards this inhumane theory.

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  3. This is just sick. I have no real words only rage that yet again a black life is explained away by a white male.

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  4. I didn’t know that about the 911 call.

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  5. My feelings exactly except you seem to think that this is somehow not congruent with what we do “as Americans”. Tragic culminations of events such as these and far worse than these make America what it is today and make Americans what we are today. America was built on a foundation of exactly this type of failure. This is, unfortunately, precisely what America has always stood for. There are people alive today who knew people who were alive during the three-fifths clause.

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  6. Yes, and a big part of that is coming to terms with our past, admitting that we are all beneficiaries of it and as such, complicit in it. It order for America to start standing for equality and social justice we need to fully come to terms with the fact that we have NEVER stood for these things before (the Civil Rights Movement is a perfect example of this, for if America already stood for civil rights we wouldn’t have had to fight for them) and that doing so now will not be in line with American ideals, but a total revolution of American ideals. We are under the illusion that American values are good, but that our actions do not always match our values. Reality: American values are not good and our actions match them all too often. Were it not so, Dr. King would not have said, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”

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