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The Year in Blame Shifting

How to dodge responsibility, whether you're a cop or the president

On Monday, when he announced that a grand jury had declined to indict two Cleveland police officers in the 2014 shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said enhanced video of the incident showed the boy was drawing what looked like a gun from his waistband. Although the object was actually an Airsoft pellet pistol, McGinty said, Timothy Loehmann, the officer who killed Tamir within two seconds of arriving at the scene, had no way of knowing that.

Even if we accept this account, it does not explain why Frank Garmback, Loehmann's partner, drove right up to someone he believed was a dangerous gunman, leaving Loehmann just a few feet from Tamir with no cover and no room for error. By ignoring the reckless approach that led to Tamir's death, McGinty managed to absolve the cops while implicitly blaming the boy for accidentally scaring Loehmann.

That exoneration by misdirection rounded out a year of audacious blame shifting. Some other highlights:

Choice of Wars. In February, after waging war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for six months, President Obama asked Congress for its blessing while insisting he did not need it. Obama, who two years earlier had urged Congress to "refine, and ultimately repeal," its 2001 authorization for the use of military force against Al Qaeda because otherwise "we may be drawn into more wars we don't need to fight," proved his own point by implausibly citing that grant as license for the war on ISIS. While criticizing legislators for shirking their war powers, Obama has encouraged congressional passivity by acting unilaterally.

Permanent Failure. Last March The New York Times, which is not usually considered part of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, revealed that Hillary Clinton had relied exclusively on a private server for email while secretary of state, thereby avoiding automatic archiving. Six months later, having kept the issue alive with a series of evasions and misstatements, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee blamed a "drip, drip, drip" of "charges and claims" from Republicans.

Road Rage. Sandra Bland, who died from an apparent suicide in a Texas jail on July 13, never would have been in that cell if Trooper Brian Encinia had kept his temper after pulling her over for a minor traffic violation three days earlier. Video of the stop shows that when Bland declined to extinguish her cigarette, Encinia ordered her out of her car, grabbed her, threatened her with a stun gun, handcuffed her, and tackled her. He said she had only herself to blame for provoking him by failing to display the meek subservience he expected.

Buyer Block. After a gunman murdered nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, President Obama suggested the massacre might have been prevented "if Congress had passed some common-sense gun safety reforms." But the legislation to which he referred, requiring background checks for all gun transfers, could not possibly have stopped the Charleston shooter, who passed a background check. According to the FBI, he shouldn't have, but that failure was due to a bureaucratic error within the executive branch.

Consumer-Friendly Monopoly. Last July, when Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed legislation that would have privatized liquor sales in Pennsylvania, he argued that the state monopoly, which generally charges more than private retailers in neighboring states, is good for consumers because it keeps prices low. The claim was not only economically unsound but inconsistent with another major argument against privatization: that it increases alcohol abuse by making booze cheaper and easier to obtain.

Cannabis Camera. Last May a security camera caught cops in Santa Ana, California, munching on what appeared to be marijuana edibles after raiding an unlicensed dispensary. The cops blamed the embarrassing episode on the camera, which they thought they had disabled. They argued that internal investigators should not use the video against them because it violated their right to privacy. A judge disagreed.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • gaoxiaen||

    First, maybe.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Meh.

  • Pat (PM)||

    Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said enhanced video of the incident showed the boy was drawing what looked like a gun from his waistband.

    Even if true, and even if the gun were real, he still would have had to quick-draw fast enough to shoot an apple off of Bob Munden's head to possibly have posed any threat in the 1.5 seconds it took from the time the cop arrived on the scene to when the first shot rang out.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...he argued that the state monopoly, which generally charges more than private retailers in neighboring states, is good for consumers because it keeps prices low.

    PA voters elected him knowing full well he was beholden as much as any Democrat to unions. We deserve what we're getting.

  • 9/30/15 New Woodchipper||

    "We" as in the royal we?
    PA compared to its neighbors looks great, but PA today compared to a remotely sane yard stick is declining, and fast.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The editorial.

  • bacchys||

    The cop never saw a gun. There's no point where they even ensured they were pulling up to gun down the right person.

    McGinty should be disbarred.

  • SimonJester||

    You spelled "hanged" kinda funny...

  • soflarider||

    While your comment may be technically correct, I think you're ignoring that someone had to have reported the kid and there must certainly been mention of a gun, for police to be dispatched.
    I've not researched this thoroughly but I do remember hearing that someone reported a kid in the park with a gun that might be fake, but this detail wasn't relayed by the dispatcher. It's inexcusable that the officers weren't charged after using the poor judgement to pull up into the park directly next to the boy.

  • bacchys||

    There was a 911 call. The caller said it was "probably" a toy gun, but thought it should be investigated. The dispatcher never mentioned the comment about a toy gun, a fact some apologists for these officers have clung to.

    But it doesn't matter. The actions of the officers meant they didn't identify Rice as the subject of the call, didn't see the gun, didn't issue any commands, and Rice didn't ignore or refuse to obey those ungiven commands. Because they pulled up nearly on top of him and immediately shot him. Had Rice walked away from the area while the police were en route on the call and some other youth entered the gazebo, that youth would now be dead and it wouldn't have mattered whether he had a toy gun, a real one, or just his pecker.

  • Rockabilly||

    Bush's fault !

  • ||

    And Harper!

  • bvandyke||

    I love the last one. It is the camera's fault we got caught, not our fault.

  • SimonJester||

    I'd like to see someone use this against a cop. "Look, if you hadn't been looking, I wouldn't have gotten caught. It is your fault for looking."

  • IceTrey||

    It looks to me like Rice was lifting his shirt not pulling the gun. Very similar case to that of Dillon Taylor.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=o1UjKqzVDCw

  • Necron 99||

    I avoid blame by voting the LP ticket. "Yes that politician sucks, no I did not vote for him."

    If only more people would shirk their responsibilities maybe we could have some freedom up in here.

  • B. Woodrow Chippenhaus||

    Even if we accept this account, it does not explain why Frank Garmback, Loehmann's partner, drove right up to someone he believed was a dangerous gunman, leaving Loehmann just a few feet from Tamir with no cover and no room for error.

    Garmback provided an explanation in the official investigation report.

    The pertinent part is on page 6. The king's men thought Rice would be on the swingset where the caller reported him to be. When they spotted Rice at the gazebo, he stood and started moving towards the rec center. They intended to interpose themselves between RIce and the rec center.

    I am not defending their actions or decisions, merely reporting them.

  • bacchys||

    How did they know Rice was the subject of the 911 call?

  • B. Woodrow Chippenhaus||

    The caller described the clothing Rice was wearing. Rice was apparently the only person matching that description when the cops arrived.

  • bacchys||

    So they claimed in the report, but their course of action as they described it meant they didn't actually check anyone else. They didn't see a gun: Loehmann makes a claim that he saw Rice stuff something into his waistband, but the video shows that is at best a convenient error in memory.

  • perpippity||

    "Even if we accept this account, it does not explain why Frank Garmback, Loehmann's partner, drove right up to someone he believed was a dangerous gunman, leaving Loehmann just a few feet from Tamir with no cover and no room for error."

    Second-guessing cops appears to be an addiction at Reason that has no bounds. If there's any doubt, or any exculpatory explanation, as here, just raise your standards! Expect more! It doesn't matter if you've never been in a dangerous, split-second situation, or even if you have any grasp on reality at all. You can always make taking the moral high ground easy for yourself by raising your expectations of people who do a job you never have and probably never could.

    I don't think we should believe the police implicitly. I'm in favor of prosecuting and convicting cops who genuinely are bad. And I have no idea whether these cops are the sort that would execute people and then claim self-defense. But it's quite clear to me that Reason's editors are biased on this subject. They never give police the benefit of the doubt. And that's a recipe for a trend of better people beginning to refuse to become police officers, or police officers pretending they didn't hear or see something that they might otherwise investigate, because if things turn out badly, who needs the grief, second-guessing and even prosecution?

  • bacchys||

    This is a Republic. We should be second-guessing the police and every other government official.

  • sgreffenius||

    A police officer guns down a twelve-year-old boy two seconds after he emerges from his car, and it's second-guessing when you call that behavior into question? If police can justify this behavior, they can justify anything. Even if you give police benefit of the doubt, how can police justify shooting someone two seconds after the encounter begins?

    Loehmann said he did exactly what his department trained him to do. That's an indictment of his whole department. Does he honestly think that his participation in a department that trains its officers to shoot on sight ought to exonerate him? On the contrary, his reference to department training suggests his superiors ought to go to jail, or at least be fired, along with him. Did you ever think we would have whole police departments trained to shoot on sight?

  • BigT||

    "They never give police the benefit of the doubt."

    Bend over!!

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