The Cleveland police union is filing an appeal of the termination of Officer Timothy Loehmann, who two years ago shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice and today was fired for lying on his job application.
After the 2015 shooting, Buzzfeed revealed that Loehmann had not disclosed he was about to be fired for dismal performance when he resigned from his previous position in Independence, Ohio. Cleveland police say they didn't request Loehmann's personnel file from Independence before hiring him. Had they done so, they would have learned that Loehmann had been deemed "unfit for duty" because of his "dismal" firearms performance. (Among other problems, he had become "distracted and weepy" during an exercise at a gun range.)
Like other public employee unions, police guilds produce rules that protect bad actors. Loehmann had been on the force for less than a year before killing Rice. The Cleveland police union has successfully persuaded arbitrers to overturn terminations before. In one infamous 2014 case, the union argued a cop shouldn't have been fired for losing his service weapon during a bar fight because other cops who had done "far worse" had not been dismissed. This time around, it's arguing that Loehmann did not break any department policy.
Rice's mother told reporters today that she's relieved Loehmann has been let go. She added that she hopes "the termination sticks and he isn't brought back after an arbitration hearing."
One way to avoid such bad hires would be to start a police offenders' registry that tracks such problem officers. Unfortunately, police unions and friendly lawmakers have helped create a climate where a police job is seen as a right, not a privilege. The Cleveland police union defended the shooting from the beginning, insisting it was justified because the 12-year-old Rice was "menacing." Other unions jumped in too—the head of the Miami police union tweeted a photo of the slain pre-teen with the caption "act like a thug and you'll be treated like one."
After the shooting, county prosecutor Timothy McGinty recommended, and a grand jury agreed, not to press charges against Loehmann. McGinty was voted out of office a few months later in the Democratic primary. The other officer on the scene when Loehmann killed Rice was suspended for 10 days and ordered to undergo additional training. The union is also appealing that suspension.
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