MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

The Officer Who Killed Tamir Rice Found a Police Chief Willing to Hire Him

It’s hard to get rid of bad cops, especially when there are leaders willing to excuse deadly incompetence as an innocent mistake.

Tamir RiceTamir Rice family photoIf you're feeling like a new era of police accountability is coming after Friday's murder conviction for the Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke, a police chief in Ohio is here to set you straight.

That same day Van Dyke was convicted, Bellaire Police Chief Richard Flanagan announced that he had hired Timothy Loehmann for his force. Loehmann is the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, in Cleveland in 2014 just seconds after arriving on the scene. Rice was holding a fake gun, but police said they were unaware that the weapon was not real, even though the person who called 911 in the first place said it might be a replica.

A grand jury declined to charge Loehmann for Rice's death. To be clear, that was after the county prosecutor actively discouraged charges in the case. Voters subsequently bounced him out of office in 2016.

The fact that the prosecutor stacked the deck against justice doesn't seem to bother Flanagan. He told the Times Leader that since Loehmann was never charged, he was "cleared of any and all wrongdoing" and should get another chance.

But even if one were to forgive Loehmann's behavior (and not think it's grotesque that Rice doesn't get a second chance to learn why it may be better not to play with fake guns in a public park), Flanagan's decision ignores the reality of why Loehmann was job hunting in the first place. Even though Loehmann wasn't charged with a crime for killing Rice, he was still fired from the Cleveland Police Department. That's because he had concealed the fact that he had previously resigned from the police department from Independence, Ohio, rather than be fired for his terrible performance record and was deemed "unfit for duty." Before that he had failed a police exam in another Ohio city, Maple Heights.

There is ample evidence that Loehmann does not have the temperament to be a police officer, and Flanagan's rather blasé attitude about hiring him (he complains that it's not fair for people to "crucify" him for killing Rice) has left some citizens horrified.

This isn't Flanagan's only questionable hire. The chief has also just hired Eric Smith as a part-time officer. Smith is the suspended police chief of the small village of Bethesda, Ohio; the state is currently investigating him over accusations that he misused a police database to dig up information on people for personal use.

To judge from the Times Leader's reporting, Flanagan seems to have more doubts about hiring Smith than hiring Loehmann. He tells the paper that Smith will not be permitted to use the police computers in Bellaire.

That anybody would even consider giving Loehmann a badge again just highlights how difficult it is to get rid of bad cops. Anthony Fisher noted back in 2016 that Loehmann had avoided decertification by quitting his job in Independence rather than getting fired, and that this had put him in a position where he could essentially attempt to pretend that he wasn't a problem cop.

An additional point of discomfort here: Often communities don't know about an officer's bad record, because some states seal this information from the public. In California, the state is finally breaking down a decades-old legally enforced practice of keeping records of police misconduct and bad behavior away from the public's eyes, and even out of the hands of prosecutors and defense attorneys when dealing with officers who are testifying in court. Here, though, Flanagan knows full well about Loehmann's background.

And yet Flanagan hired him anyway. All the transparency in the world doesn't help when the people who are supposed to hold police accountable do not. It will probably be up to the citizens of Bellaire to try to hold Flanagan responsible for his reckless hires.

Photo Credit: Tamir Rice family photo

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Richard Flanagan . . . not just a cop, but a cop succor.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Cop succor? I don't think that's the word you are looking for.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Not if he was using the verb form. E.g:

    succor; verb: give assistance or aid to.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Bingo!

    Fun fact: That term was censored by the Volokh Conspiracy a few years ago.

  • Jerryskids||

    So when Loehmann continues being the bad cop that he is and does whatever it is he's going to do to cost the taxpayers of Bellaire a big bag of money, will Flanagan be held personally liable for the reckless endangerment?

  • Gary Trieste||

    Almost seems prime for a proper set up, knowing the incompetence and recklessness of this cop.
    Do something that would trigger the cop, get it all on tape (making sure there is a bulletproof vest), then own the whole freekin town.

  • SIV||

    Rice was holding a fake gun

    When the police arrived and shot Rice dead the fake gun was in the child's waistband. He never touched it in the presence of his killer.

  • Woody Chip Hurrrrr?||

    The cops also drove up so fast that they stopped right next to the kid, yelled at him to freeze or drop the weapon or whatever (probably both) and shot him from inside the cop car because his closeness made them skeered for their lives. Memory says they shot something like two seconds after stopping, barely enough time to roll down the window and yell and shoot.

  • SIV||

    "Experts" said the child made moves consistent with "going for his gun". They had to do that because Tamir didn't touch it and it did not appear to a "civilian" that he did any such thing.

  • Sonny Bono's Ghost||

    The sad irony here is that had they known positively that Tamir had a real firearm on him, they wouldn't have rolled up on him the way they did. They would have called in multiple units and cordened off the park, and only then would they have shot him from a safe distance for not complying or making furtive movements.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    So Loehmann just has to be a cop? He can't give it up and move on to some other form of employment? Given what he's failed at, lied about, and done that should be a clue that policing isn't the occupation for him.

    Yet he persists. That should be a clue that one should not hire him as there is obviously some deep-rooted and dark emotional reason he wants to be a cop and whatever that is can't lead to anywhere good.

    And how desperate for officers is this Flanagan that he has to hire these two to be on the force? Smith and Loehmann aren't just in the bottom of the barrel, they're the putrid residue adhering to the bottom of the barrel.

    There is desperation on both sides here and I wonder how long it will be before something really bad happens in this town because of it.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Considering what he's failed at, lied about, and done it seems like policing is absolutely the right occupation.

  • John C. Randolph||

    So Loehmann just has to be a cop?

    Well, he's too much of a pussy to join the French Foreign Legion...

    -jcr

  • darkflame||

    Ya know, I'm supposed to be trying to keep my blood pressure down, and then you guys post shit like this. This is messed up as hell.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Exactly my thoughts...

  • damikesc||

    I still don't get why cops get such benefit of the doubt.

    They're SUPPOSED to be professionals. They're SUPPOSED to know better.

    Why are randos expected to know the difference without killing somebody but the trained police are not?

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    Because the private sector does everything better then the public sector?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Lower standards.

  • JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy||

    Because you have to look at the State like an organism that has the same self-preservation instinct as any other organism. Police departments are appendages of the State with individual officers serving as the flesh and bone. Hence, they must be protected, particularly against external threats (i.e., citizens). By making citizens accountable to a higher degree, it allows the State to better serve its self-protection function by controlling its external environment (i.e., citizens).

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yeah, one of the major errors in reasoning people make about government, is that it is a neutral party. That it is some direct will of the people and an extension of their, or really anyone's will. When really it's a huge tribe unto itself with it's own needs and goals.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Rule #1 of the institution: protect the institution.

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Often the defense is they are trained to expect potential danger in every encounter. "You can't let your guard down", "Always be ready to draw your weapon", "Look at these videos of an officer ambushed at a routine traffic stop", etc.

    This stuff would put anyone on edge. What's worse is this training becomes a defense in itself.

  • A Thinking Mind||

    Yeah. They're trained to be paranoid. "Even though you don't see a guy, the time it takes to draw and fire a concealed weapon is 1.2 seconds. If you're not alert, you're dead."

    Everyone is a threat. Anyone could kill you. Be prepared to kill them first. Now go out there and do your job.

  • posmoo||

    because they are government employees and progressive court ruled they have a constitutionally protected interest plus strong unions plus qualified immunity bullshit. basically what ruins everything leftist bullshit.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Sounds like even I could get a job in Bellaire.

  • dwshelf||

    Where's the part about police officers who acted with restraint, and died for not shooting first?

  • sarcasmic||

    Acting with restraint doesn't get cops killed. But it does get them fired. Blacklisted as well. Shooting children with toy guns shows that an officer has zero tolerance for anything that could put officer safety into jeopardy. That person will always find a job. Restraint shows a willingness to put one's self and one's fellow officers into harm's way for the benefit of an individual, and that cannot be tolerated. After all, the public is not safe unless police officers are safe, and "the public" means everyone except any individuals that a police officer might encounter. Better to kill individuals and be safe than put the public at risk by showing restraint.

  • DPICM||

    There should be more such stories because these cops are the true heroes - they actually risked and sacrificed their lives serving their community.

    Guys like the ones in this article are somewhere between bullies, morons and cowards, maybe a mixture of all three. It doesn't take courage to roll up on someone while armed and with a partner, and a host of backup at your beck and call over the radio and shoot the dude immediately and without warning. It takes courage to NOT fire and see if you can deescalate the situation. It takes courage to wait until fired upon to engage in deadly force.

    Cops who try to do that and get killed get to be called heroes because they did the heroic thing. At the end of the day, the risk that you won't go home is part of the job of being a cop, and if you don't like that risk, don't be a cop. But you don't get to wrap yourself in the cloak of "our nation's finest" and expect everyone to call you a hero if you're not actually heroic and just some pussy who wants to go home safe and will do whatever he has to in order to do so.

  • vek||

    I'm sure plenty of cops do get hurt, or killed, by showing restraint... The thing is, that is supposed to be part of the job description. They used to be trained to show restraint, and that training needs to make a return.

    If nothing else these guys need to start tasing people first for christs sake!

  • sarcasmic||

    There once was a man from Bellaire
    who was making love on the stairs.
    The banister broke
    so he doubled his stroke
    and finished her off in midair!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    It will probably be up to the citizens of Bellaire to try to hold Flanagan responsible for his reckless hires.

    Good luck with that.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • sarcasmic||

    He failed to obey. He's lucky to be alive.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    At least the charges were dropped. I just hop he never runs into that asshole cop again.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    *hope*

  • 0x1000||

    Stop calling them public parks. They're government parks. That makes the transgression much clearer.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Finally! A native speaker of English. Good show!

  • MSimon||

    4096 in English.

  • NewIntellectual||

    A petition for the town council to fire this creature.

    https://bit.ly/2y8bFov

  • Hank Phillips||

    Gosh... maybe Goebbels jumped the gun (so to speak). With Americans running the Nuremberg Trials he might have been "cleared of all wrongdoing" too. But in Socialist countries, hope is the first to die... In America bettors simply pass the hat and put up a deadpool for betting against genocidal cops.

  • IceTrey||

    They probably work for cheap.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    This cop's past murder history should come up in the future lawsuit where he kills someone else in his new job.

  • vek||

    This was one of the few "big" national stories where the cop was pretty clearly in the wrong. About 80%+ of the shootings that turned into a big media circus were either where you could reasonably see it from the victims point of view or the cops, or in a lot of them the cop was clearly in the right. The police reform people have made a BIG mistake by pushing a lot of the stories where the perps were being shitheads IMO. It undercuts the legitimate cases of police abuse.

    Fact is these guys DO put their lives on the line. They need to show REASONABLE restraint, but in a lot of instances the guys they shoot were asking for it, because any REASONABLE person would have shot their asses too.

    The biggest suggestion I would make in a lot of these cases is the cops should just pull their tasers and zap a lot of these guys instead of using their guns. There would be fewer deaths, and not too many people who even have guns are going to be shooting the cop while they're twitching on the ground.

  • SRoach||

    I wonder who he's related to.
    My guess is either the police chief's wife, the mayor, a city councilman, or one of the police chief's drinking buddies.

  • SimonP||

    He got a Kavanaugh on this one.

  • ohdelilah||

    The killing of Tamir Rice wasn't deadly incompetence. Incompetence is "Oops, my gun went off." Those officers approached that park with the clear intent of killing that child.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online