The Firing of Timothy Loehmann

tamir

Timothy Loehmann, the Cleveland police officer who killed Tamir Rice in 2014, has been fired. But he was not fired for killing Tamir Rice. Cleveland.com has the story:

Timothy Loehmann, the rookie police officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, was fired Tuesday.

His partner, Frank Garmback, who pulled his cruiser within feet of the young boy, was suspended for 10 days without pay.

Loehmann was fired not for shooting Tamir, but for lying on his application with the Cleveland police department. He was also in his probationary period as a Cleveland officer giving the department more flexibility in letting him go, Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath said…

A review committee comprised of city officials that took the place of a normal internal affairs investigation found that neither officer violated any police policies.

The panel, called the Critical Incident Response Committee, concluded that neither Garmback nor Loehmann violated any police policies at the time of the incident.

This case has been a troublesome one for all the white people who desperately want to appear reasonable and empathetic but also want to continue to support the systemic violence and racism of American policing. It was the kind of bad shooting that made even police supporters say, “Ok, yeah, that wasn’t right.” But then their next move was to claim that it was an isolated incident and Loehmann was one of those famous bad apples we hear so much about.

If the case is not indicative of systemic problems in American policing, then there must be an easy explanation for these questions:

Why didn’t Loehmann face a trial?

Why wasn’t Loehmann fired for the shooting?

Why didn’t the shooting violate police department procedures?

We can’t bring Tamir back, but we can change what comes next. We can elect good prosecutors. McGinty, the cowardly prosecutor in Cleveland, lost his reelection bid. In Philadelphia we just elected a reformist District Attorney who opposes police brutality and mass incarceration. We also need to pressure Democrats at the local level. This is a bipartisan problem, and body cameras are not a cure-all. We need everything from increased citizen oversight and control of police to better police training and more humane policies (astonishingly, deescalation is still a novel tactic in many police departments).

And since this is a blog about evangelicalism and I am a white evangelical, I’ll conclude with a note for us. We can do more to make our fellow Christians squirm. The selfishness and racism of white evangelicals is a major contributor to racial injustice in the United States. Let those status-quo supporting Christians know that we’re not asking them to debate a political point with us. We’re asking them to repent of their sin.

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