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Cleveland Police Union Chief’s Rhetoric Is a Growing Danger

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Cleveland Police Union Chief’s Rhetoric Is a Growing Danger

Jun 9, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tadar Muhammad (right) and Jeremy Brustein (left) demonstrate in support of Tamir Rice outside of Quicken Loans Arena prior to game three of the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

There is a stain darkening the city of Cleveland, and it is threatening to leach so many good intentions here as we prepare to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to the Republican National Convention.

This stain has a name: Steve Loomis. He is president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. Unbelievably, he is also a member of the Cleveland Community Police Commission, which was mandated by a federal court to come up with policy reforms for a police department that he thinks needs no fixing.

If I’ve learned anything about Loomis from our long, meandering interviews, it’s his certainty that there’s nothing wrong with the Cleveland police force that a more appreciative, compliant population wouldn’t fix. Over many months, his ill will has seeped out, bringing dishonor to the men and women he was elected to represent and telegraphing an open disdain for the community he is charged to protect.

We saw Loomis at it again this week, only hours after the city of Cleveland announced a $6 million settlement with the family of Tamir Rice.

Tamir is the 12-year-old black boy who was playing with an air pellet gun in a city park in November 2014 when a police car swept up next to him in response to a call from a 9-1-1 dispatcher, who failed to convey the witness’s belief that his gun was not real. Seconds later, Tamir was on the ground, mortally wounded by gunshots from a police officer who, personnel files later revealed, should never have been hired.

Our city — in our neighborhoods, I mean, where we see boys like Tamir every day — has never stopped reeling from this boy’s death.

The prosecutor who failed to call for a grand jury indictment against the two white officers lost re-election in this year’s Democratic primary. Nationally, we are the consent-decree city now. Reporters occasionally still sweep in to see what, if any, progress we’re making in the wake of a 58-page Department of Justice report that chronicled a pattern of unreasonable and excessive force so extreme and systemic — and unconstitutional — that reforms must unfold through court supervision.

From day one, Loomis has blasted that report as riddled with lies and the consent decree as a waste of his time.

With the announcement of the financial settlement of the Rice family’s civil suit against the city, there was a collective sigh of relief from those of us who have yearned for something more than that hollow space between the wringing of hands from good people who feel helpless and the insistence of racists that Tamir had it coming.

The money does not bring justice, because not one cent of it will bring back Tamir Rice. It comes with no admission of guilt, either, on the part of the city. But for a moment at least, we could allow ourselves the fantasy that somewhere, in the depths of relentless official denial, burns an ember of regret.

And then Loomis weighed in, with a written statement that read, in part:

“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. Something positive must come from this tragic loss. That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm.

“We look forward to the possibility of working with the Rice family to achieve this common goal.”

Immediately, I thought of Samaria Rice, who told me last year in an interview for Politico that she watches that video clip of her son’s shooting over and over, tracking his every moment — looking for a sign, any sign, that Tamir knew what was about to happen to him. She told me how she had fixed him lunch just an hour before, how she never had seen the air pellet gun he was hiding in his jacket because he knew his mother would never have allowed him to play with it.

So typical of Loomis to blame the victim and — as I am increasingly discovering through dozens of off-the-record interviews with his rank-and-file members — to misrepresent the men and women he is supposed to champion. He is “an embarrassment,” they tell me. He is making their “jobs harder.” He is, an officer told me last month, possibly putting their lives at greater risk by casting the Cleveland police as mortal enemies of our neighborhoods.

If Loomis does not dial back his rhetoric, he could endanger not just Cleveland’s citizens and its police officers but also the many guests and activists who will soon swarm this city for what is already expected to be a contentious Republican National Convention.

The stain is spreading, and there is no substitute for leadership to make it stop.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: Jun 9, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Tadar Muhammad (right) and Jeremy Brustein (left) demonstrate in support of Tamir Rice outside of Quicken Loans Arena prior to game three of the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports 

Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicated. Schultz won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. She has also published two books: Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths -- a collection of her previously published columns -- and ...and His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man, which chronicled her experiences on the campaign trail with her husband, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

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  1. FireBaron April 28, 2016

    I guess people like to forget that Tamir broke off the orange tip that identified it as a “toy” and pretended to aim at people and things. Yes, that cop should never have been hired, but why didn’t a responsible adult teach Rice how to “play” with his pellet gun?

    1. Paul Bass April 28, 2016

      You mean, when you were young and stupid AND WHITE, when you played with toy guns, no one thought to murder you. (because you were white).

      As a youngster 50 years ago I played with toy guns at the park all the time. Yet, being white, cops didn’t think I was “a problem”.

      Now, its “start shooting, and let God sort out the guilty”.

      So STOP blaming Tamir, a 12 year old kid, for being MURDERED by this officer!

    2. Paul Bass April 28, 2016

      BTW, back when you and I were playing with toy guns, they DIDN’T have the orange tip, and yet, we (average white kids) weren’t MURDERED by LEO for having “realistic” toys.

    3. RED April 28, 2016

      You’re an idiot. Why didn’t someone teach you not to be an idiot? Sadly, that shipped has sailed and I’m certain stupidity will be your continued future.

    4. Grannysmovin April 28, 2016

      You seem to forget the individual who called this in said it may very well be a “toy” gun? How do you know Tamir broke off the orange ti, not that it broke off a cheaply made pellet gun? Why aren’t police being trained to stop the car facing the “alleged” suspect so when they open their car doors to exit they have some protection until they know what they are facing?

      1. Sand_Cat April 28, 2016

        Come on: that would make sense, and would no doubt make city streets less of a shooting gallery for incompetent, deranged, and racist cops.

    5. JPHALL April 28, 2016

      Wow! What stupidity. Are you a mental patient? I am a Black man who can remember playing games in the neighborhood and parks like Cops & Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, and the ever popular Soldier. We used toy guns, sticks and pellet guns. No Cop ever drove up and started shooting. If they had a problem, like us using machetes as swords, they stopped and talked to us. No one ever got shot!

      1. Beethoven April 29, 2016

        I can remember playing with toy guns, and with a BB gun, when I was a child, and never thought about the possibility that a policeman would shoot me because he thought it was a murder weapon and that I wanted to kill someone. But I admit I had a big advantage: I was a white boy living in a small town.
        I know quite a few policemen, and most of those I know are good officers who try to exercise common sense when dealing with the public. But there are too many, especially in big cities, who are not like that, and who, to make matters even worse, have not had proper training in how to act professionally as a police officer. And when the leaders, whether in the police force itself, or political leaders who have a voice in choosing the officers, defend the incompetent, improperly trained officers, they are simply making the problem worse.

        1. JPHALL April 29, 2016

          You are so right!

          Subject: Re: Comment on Cleveland Police Union Chief’ s Rhetoric Is a Growing Danger

    6. Sand_Cat April 28, 2016

      That was all the more reason for the cops to approach carefully instead of whipping up to within a few feet, then shooting him pretty much instantly without warning. Seriously, you’d say the same thing about a white, suburban 12-year old? Guess those damned Jews shouldn’t have antagonized the Nazis by existing, either, right?

  2. plc97477 April 28, 2016

    Great article. Thank you for saying what needed saying.

  3. CrankyToo April 28, 2016

    It sounds like this jerk-off, Loomis is qualified to be President Trump’s SecState.

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  4. RED April 28, 2016

    I have no trouble at all understanding and agreeing that Loomis is a scumbag, these union cop rep’s always are to a man. The only part of the article that is truly unbelievable is once again presenting this lying mythology that there are other good cops out there who wanna stop murdering people and assaulting them and making the United States the Prison Nation of the World, you know it’s just a #fewbadapples, right? Wrong!! Wrong!!! Wrong!! The police in the United States is a collection of corrupt organizations built on the oppression of those with the least amount of power, a violent gang of thugs with blue or black as their gang colors. And the sooner we dispense with this false mythology that “most cops are good” and it’s just a few bad apples, the sooner we can maybe start to have a country that doesn’t imprison more people than any nation of Earth and doesn’t murder 12 year old kids in a park, that doesn’t strangle people on the street for selling loose cigarettes. Of course there are some morons who are perfectly happy with the violence of the police in the U.S. but that’s only because they haven’t been assaulted by the violent blue thugs yet and they foolishly believe that they never will be. Morons, the lot of ’em!!!

    1. Sand_Cat April 28, 2016

      Wish I could disagree, but the policing problem in this country goes way, way beyond racism; if you missed anything, I’m sure you say more than enough to convey the overall situation.

  5. Sand_Cat April 28, 2016

    Maybe he can redeem himself by talking the Secret Service into allowing guns – preferably fully-automatic – at the GOP Convention.

  6. Zestos April 29, 2016

    The republican national convention has all the hints of the 1968 democratic convention in Chicago. There was turmoil inside the convention hall, including physical fighting. Outside, 10’s of thousands of Vietnam protesters were chanting peacefully to nominate Eugene McCarthy, the anti-war delegate. The party was fractured, just as the republicans are. And there will be protesters outside in Cleveland with a host of legitimate issues, including brutal racist policing. Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson may not be the bully Chicago mayor Richard Daly was, but he has yet to take seriously the mandated justice dept. reforms. The one redeeming possibility for Cleveland could be the national guard will behave as peacekeepers to both the protesters and the local gendarmes. Because just as it was the, “the whole world will be watching.”


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