A 12-year-old Cleveland boy was shot by a police officer Saturday afternoon. From the information presented in the media, officers were dispatched to the scene after receiving a tip about a boy allegedly wielding a handgun at a public park. Arriving on scene, the officers found the weapon — what turned out to be a replica airsoft pistol — in the boys waistband. When asked to raise his hands, the boy reached for the gun and the officer discharged his weapon twice. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office later identified the boy as Tamir Rice.
It’s disturbing that someone was shot and killed by a police officer. In situations like these there are often more questions than answers, and often those questions will remain unanswered. Do police need more or better quality training? Was the officer acting on the training he did have or was he acting on instinct? Why did the officer discharge his firearm and not utilize a taser or other non-lethal device? Do police need more funding for non-lethal equipment? Did Rice not listen to the officer out of fear? Was he reaching for the gun to show it wasn’t an actual gun or to shoot the officer? Was the officer focusing on all possible outcomes in order to truly protect and serve?
In light of the upcoming Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, we feel that questions like these should be answered swiftly and accurately by the police. For the sake of increasing public trust, we feel that police departments should be more honest and transparent about their use of force policies and the training officers receive. We think police departments should also educate the public on their policies, creating a positive relationship with the community.
That being said, it should also be the responsibility of the public to hold police accountable and respect their authority. People should not feel afraid of law enforcement. Due to today’s culture and recent incidents where citizens have been shot and killed, however, it has become a reality for the public to distrust local law enforcement authorities. With more information, transparency and understanding between them, we think situations like that of Rice’s death in Cleveland could be avoided.
Change can start in Cleveland. In order to feel safer on the streets, demanding a better relationship between the public and the police is essential.