Police Union President Tells Rice Family to Spend Settlement on Gun Education

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April 25, 2016; Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)

Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman Association, has a history of sticking his foot in his mouth, and Monday was no different. Earlier this week, without admitting fault, Cleveland agreed to pay the family of Tamir Rice $6 million after their 12-year-old son was fatally shot in 2014 by a police officer when he was reported for playing with a toy gun. In its aftermath, Loomis released a remarkable statement on behalf of the association, which comprises Cleveland residents and law enforcement, remarking that the Rice family should use some of that settlement to educate other children on how to treat guns.

“We can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of this settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms,” wrote Loomis. “Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.”

Prosecutors declined to charge the rookie officer, Timothy Loehmann, who shot Rice at point blank range seconds after coming on the scene. The officer claimed he believed Rice was reaching for a genuine weapon. In the past, Loehmann had been removed from another police force in Independence, Ohio, for being unable to handle the stress of the job, being called “distracted” and “weepy.” Loehmann’s partner was also not charged. Loomis has stood by both officers, contending both were justified in the shooting.

Almost immediately, Loomis and the association were lambasted for the statement, which many interpreted as blaming the 12-year-old for his own death. Instead, the letter and Loomis’ general opinion of the Rice shooting completely avoid any question of the officers’ use of deadly force.

Subodh Chandra, the attorney for the Rice family, agreed with much of the social media response to Loomis: “Anyone who has ever wondered whether ‘tone deafness’ is a real thing need look no further than the police union leadership.”

As noted by the Plain Dealer, Loomis’ statement is part of a large repertoire of inflammatory statements. Last year, Loomis told Politico, “Tamir Rice is in the wrong. He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body.” Unfortunately, as the Washington Post’s Stacey Patton wrote just after the shooting, Loomis falls in line with one sadly common, ill-conceived view of black children: “Black America has again been reminded that its children are not seen as worthy of being alive—in part because they are not seen as children at all, but as menacing threats to white lives.”—Shafaq Hasan