I read with interest Redstate’s Leon Wolf’s assessment of the Tamir Rice decision reached by the Grand Jury in Cleveland. However in this case, I respectfully disagree with his conclusion. What he is specifically leaving out of his assessment is a series of events leading up to the shooting which included misinformation given to the officer. That information included a description of Rice being older with a gun. At no time did the dispatcher tell the officer that the gun was a toy. In addition, we see pictures of a sweet twelve year old boy being thrown all over the TV as well as different online news sites. However, as the officers are driving up to the suspect they are confronted with someone wearing a heavy jacket with a hoodie on that looks taller and older than a twelve year old who appears to be taking a gun out of his waistband. With the information that the officers had, their actions were clearly justifiable as much as the actions of Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case. As for Mr. Wolf’s assertion that a non police officer would have been charged with at least manslaughter in a similiar incident, that may well be his experience but that is hardly the norm across the country. Individuals have a right to defend themseles and with no proper markings on toy guns most people would have made the same judgements as this officer.
One of the major problems in this case is the toy or pellet gun Tamir Rice was carrying. Toy manufacturers have to understand that if they are going to make items that are to mimic a gun but are in reality not as lethal then they have to make the item in such a way as a normal individual and the law enforcement community can clearly see it is not a lethal weapon. It takes more than a silly orange tip that can be added to any weapon to try and fool a police officer. But this is not the only issue in this case as the main issue is the proper behavior of an individual.
As one commentator noted, Tamir Rice was 12 years old and should have known better than to be waiving a gun, real or fake, around in a public place where it could cause concern or fear. One commentator alluded that at 12 years old an individual is too young to realized their actions have consequences that could lead to serious harm. This is a ridiculous assertion. In schools (as well as many different homes), children are taught many different way in which your actions could have consequences such as starting a fire, eating bad food, lying, hitting and a variety of other bad behaviors. I clearly remember as a twelve year old being taught right from wrong. That is not to say that Tamir was not taught those things as well but the key question is – Did he receive the approporiate punishment to teach him that his actions could be or were harmful. Obviously not if he was waiving a gun around scaring individuals – not just one individual but several who called the police.
In addition, I have to agree that many young people are being taught to openly defy the police – this is not relegated just to the black community and it is not a new phenomenon. I remember one evening, after I had moved to California as a teenager due to the death of my mother, being out past curfew. Now I had no idea that there was a curfew in place because I was new to the area but I was walking back to my father’s home with my neice who was just a couple of years younger than me. An officer stopped us and asked what we were doing out but before I could get a word out of my mouth, my niece was being hostile and saying don’t talk to him. I looked at her like she had lost her mind and promptly ignored here and told the officer the truth. I was walking back to my dad’s house, was new to the area and had no idea there was a curfew. The officer was short with me but not because of my attitude but my neice’s attitude which was rude. By the end of the conversation, the officer had thawed a little because I was being polite and taking the lead in the situation. At the time I was only 4 years older than Tamir Rice but even at 12 years old, I would have known better than to pull a gun whether real or not on a police officer or to be belligerent to an officer.
It’s time to stop making excuses and teach the younger generation manners as well as proper behavior in different circumstances. Yes, law enforcement is held to a different standard than the rest of us in many but not all circumstances because of the nature of their job. There is nothing wrong with that and in many cases, law enforcement can be tougher on their own when it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they have exceded their authority. One only has to look at the case in South Carolina to realize officers are not getting away with murdering people. However, its time to stop making excuses for bad behavior and start accepting responsibility for the consequences of said bad behavior. It doesn’t matter if your 12 or 25 or 65, puling a gun on a police officer real or fake is never a smart idea.