The younger person was about two years old when a preschool friend of his, a little older, came over to play.
"Let's go get bad guys!" the other boy shouted.
This, I learned, is what boys do. Boys fantasize about performing acts of derring do.
In the early autumn of the younger person's seventh year, I asked the mother of one of his friends what Halloween costume her son planned to wear that year. I was looking for ideas.
"No no no," she said. "First you decide on the weapon. THEN you get the costume."
Several years later, the younger person and I joined other families as the children walked from house to house, trick-or-treating. The younger person was dressed in a military costume and carrying a realistic looking plastic gun with an orange bulb on its tip.
The orange bulb FELL OFF the plastic gun as he walked.
I'm just grateful we weren't living in Cleveland at the time.
The younger person since has grown into an honorable young man. All the bad-guy-hunting, fake-gun playing and video-game shoot-em-ups of his early years have had no negative effect on his personality or character. The same is true of his friends.
I wish Tamir Rice had had the opportunity to grow up as well.
I found this comment, posted yesterday, on a Cleveland newspaper's website.
I am a white male and have tended to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt
in most cases throughout my life where police have been accused of excessive force
and/or wrong doing. My brother has been a career law enforcement officer in Colorado,
as a police officer, SWAT team member, anti-gang unit officer, etc. I don't have a
distrust of police and believe 90% of them are good people doing the best they can in a
sometimes harsh environment.
Having said that, I would seriously question anyone trying to defend these two officers'
handling of this incident. We all know Tamir had a toy gun that looked real (just like
most toy guns used to look when I was a child playing with them 30-40 years ago). If
Tamir had a chance to point the gun at the officers - and done so, I believe these officers
would have been justified in believing their lives were in jeopardy and using deadly force.
But that was not the case here. According to the police statements, the officers drove up
on the scene and told Tamir to drop the weapon. If that is true, then Tamir would have
been following police orders in reaching into his waste band to grab the "weapon" - as it's
difficult to "drop" a weapon that you don't first have in your hand! The video shows the
boy being shot by the cops within a second or two of them pulling up on him. I understand
cops have to make split second (sometimes life/death) decisions, but in this case, they
brought that upon themselves by driving up on the "suspect" when there was clearly no
need. The boy was alone and nobody's life was in danger when these cops showed up.
They should have approached from a distance and assessed the situation before putting
themselves in a situation of having to make a split second fire/don't fire decision. The
tactics of these two officers put both themselves and Tamir's life in unnecessary danger.
The fact is, this kid was just being a kid. Probably not a wise move in today's world to
play with a gun that looks real out in public. When I was 12 I did many things that my
adult self look back upon as being less than wise. No reasonable person looks at the actions
of this boy (or at least what we know of his actions) and thinks he deserved to be shot.
When assessing the actions of these 2 officers, ask yourself this one question. Did their
tactics put the public, the officers and the suspect in the least amount of danger? I have
a very difficult time answering "yes" with what is known about this case and what has
been shown on video...
Police departments, like all the institutions of man, are flawed.
Police officers deal with people at their worst moments, and we can understand if not sympathize when they develop an "us against them" attitude toward their fellow citizens.
Still, we need police departments.
Saying that most police officers -- 90 percent or even 95 percent -- are measured and careful is not enough. That majority has to assert itself against the weaker links. It has to force them out of their jobs before they undermine public trust, before they needlessly escalate situations and kill people, and long before their actions are presented before grand juries.
Otherwise you end up with what happened in Cleveland.