Police Abuse

Settlements in Tamir Rice, Zachary Hammond Cases Illustrate Elusiveness of Police Accountability

Police departments and cities admit no fault for the killings in such agreements.

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The family of Tamir Rice will receive $6 million from the city of Cleveland in a settlement arrived at this week over the death of the 12-year-old Rice, who was shot and killed by Officer Timothy Loehmann in a city park moments after the officer exited his vehicle.

Meanwhile, the family of Zachary Hammond will receive $2.15 million from Seneca, S.C., for the death of the 18-year-old Hammond, who was shot and killed during a drug sting over a small amount of marijuana. The settlement was approved by a state judge last week.

In both cases the police departments admit no fault in the deaths of the unarmed victims. Loehmann and another officer also failed to offer Rice any medical aid after shooting him. The most recent settlement, in 2015, between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Cleveland police (there have been two in the last four years) requires cops, among other things, to offer medical care to their victims. Seven months after agreeing to those reforms, the city sent a claim demanding $500 for emergency medical services from the Rice family.

"There is no price that you can put on the life, on the loss, of a 12-year-old child," Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. He had previously apologized for the wording of a city filing in the Tamir Rice lawsuit that claimed the 12-year-old boy was at fault for his own death (he had a toy gun on him in the park where he was shot—a 911 called identified the toy gun as such) and that sought immunity for the city. He also apologized for the medical bill, saying it was supposed to have been sent to the insurance company.

While such settlements can help move toward closure, they make it easier for local governments to evade responsibility. Cities that arrive at no-fault settlements will often insist, if their officials make public statements at all, that they settled to avoid the uncertainty of a trial.

In Cleveland, the police union responded by

suggesting Rice's family use a part of the settlement money "help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms." Union officials in cities like Cleveland can be so brazen because they know their political power is secure. Whether in one-party cities or two-party cities, challenging police unions, which protect bad cops like Loehmann, is rare in politics. If the union in Cleveland were interested in protecting its cops, it should demand something like a police offenders registry to prevent proverbial "bad apples" from joining.

In Seneca, meanwhile, the police say they will be "reinforcing training" on alternatives to the use of deadly force and the state law enforcement agency is asking for more money for more training on deadly force, citing the Hammond case.

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While Loehmann, who had a history of being unqualified to be a police officer, resigned before the department took any action, Mark Tiller, who shot and killed Hammond, is still on the force. Both officers avoided any criminal charges. A grand jury declined to indict Loehmann while the prosecutor in South Carolina declined to bring charges against Tiller, saying a video showing Tiller shooting at Hammond's vehicle while he was trying to flee offered no evidence Tiller broke any laws while killing Hammond. The prosecutor responsible for the Tamir Rice grand jury was voted out of office in the Democratic primaries last month.

Effective police accountability, and actual reductions in police violence, will require relief somewhere between convictions in criminal courts and administrative slaps-on-the-wrist. That requires police departments and local governments have the will, and more importantly, the authority to terminate officers who use deadly force in controversial situations without having to meet the standard of criminal conviction.

It's harder in the U.S. to fire a police officer who kills a child, or any unarmed victim, than it is to expel a student accused of assault from college. If the DOJ exerted half the pressure on local police departments, government agencies often directly or indirectly supported by federal funds, that it does on institutions of higher education, it could lead to substantive reforms. But that would require addressing the strength of police unions in creating an environment hostile to accountability, something neither major party has so far been willing to do, even as one has targeted other unions, private and public, while the other pays lip service to the problem of police violence.

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  1. Look, the cops have bodycams and toothless civilian review boards and municipal governments to shit cash all over people they abuse. Just because nobody suffers any consequences doesn’t mean they have no accountability.

  2. “Mishandling a facsimile firearm…”

    You mean a toy, asshole. It was a toy, and described as such prior to the encounter.

  3. A grand jury declined to indict Loehmann

    Thanks in large part to the prosecutor acting as the cop’s defense attorney throughout the proceeding.

  4. What, PD worry?

    1. “A grand jury declined to indict Officer Alfred E. Neuman today …”

  5. “Settlements in Tamir Rice, Zachary Hammond Cases Illustrate Elusiveness of Police Accountability
    Police departments and cities admit no fault for the killings in such agreements.”

    Isn’t this standard operating procedure for settlements though? I know that in my job when I’m reviewing settlement documents, they all make a point to say ‘this settlement will not be considered an admission of guilt, etc.’

    The problem is what happens before the settlement process, namely prosecutors refusing to even charge cops who have clearly done terrible things.

  6. So the police department is the rich kid who goes around drunk, wrecking cars, running over people, etc., and the taxpayers are the kid’s indulgent parents, bailing him out of trouble and continuing to subsidize his behavior.

    “the state law enforcement agency is asking for more money for more training on deadly force, citing the Hammond case.”

    Wow, that case was a lucky break for them, just in time for budget season!

    1. Sounds to me like they’ve got the deadly force thing pretty well figured out. They should probably train them on something else, like “How to Pass as a Decent Human Being” or “Calling 911 Before Somebody Bleeds Out All Over Your Shoes”.

  7. We don’t support our drug war troops by second guessing their split second decision making.

  8. Tamil Rice was a thug in waiting for having a toy gun. His parents should have been more responsible.

    /David French pulls out dick and sucks it.

  9. It goes to show how full of shit cops are to justify the murder and shift blame onto a kid who had a toy.

    Bleeping incompetent cowards with no sense of accountability.

  10. Listen, it’s quite simple; if you don’t want to get shot like a thug, don’t play with a toy gun like a thug.

  11. Of course there can’t be police accountability for their misdeeds. The judicial standard is so egregiously pro-law enforcement that you literally need video of a cop shooting an unarmed man in the back as he’s running away or when he’s on the ground; anything less than that, and we’re “second guessing” a subjective judgment made during a (potentially) dangerous situation.

    With Tamir Rice, the cop just has to claim the gun LOOKED real and the 12 year old LOOKED like an 18 year old gang-banger ready to shoot him. The fact that the cop acted completely reckless in rushing Mr. Rice which led to his distorted subjective judgment of what occurred is completely irrelevant in the equation.

    1. you literally need video of a cop shooting an unarmed man in the back as he’s running away or when he’s on the ground

      Say, whatever happened to that cop who was taped shooting someone as they ran away, and then dropped his taser near the body while his buddies looked on?

      1. He was charged with murder, afaik.

        1. Going to trial late summer. Of course the police union is doing their part to shit all over everything there as well.

  12. KKKOCHhadi TeaPublicans and their “tough on crime” infatuation with police!!!1!1!

    Oh wait, Charles Koch and a local (republican) businessman start an academic center at my school to study criminal justice reform.

  13. “it was supposed to have been sent to the insurance company.”

    This is a bold faced lie that, when thought about for even the briefest moment, is no better than sending the bill to the family. Whats the billing code for shooting a child and then standing around akwardly while he bleeds out?

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