Tamir Rice’s killing is an opportunity for honest dialogue about discretion from police and citizenry.
The car hadn’t fully stopped yet before a Cleveland Police Officer pumped two bullets into twelve year-old Tamir Rice, who was in the possession of an airsoft gun while on the playground.
The video was released today, with the permission of the family, and if you blink twice you’ll miss the shooting… it all happened in less than five seconds.
Officers – unlike the negligent newbies who were patrolling the Pink Houses the night Akai Gurley was murdered by a bullet from a gun designed not to accidentally discharge – immediately called in the officer-involved shooting and reported a “male down, black male, maybe 20.”
Well… as we know Tamir Rice wasn’t twenty, he was twelve… he was a child. This is another black life that’s been taken by the hands of police. And in the wake of the #FergusonDecision, this video is almost unbearable to watch, though it’s shorter than an average television commercial.
I share in the anger, sadness and outrage of those who grieve the loss of Mr. Rice. But I also recognize this particular moment for what it is: an opportunity to provide perspective in the midst of pain. Since September of 2014, I’ve been involved in a movement led by South Philadelphia activists and lawmakers who want to rid neighborhoods of airsoft/BB guns.
Those Philadelphians who picked up the cause and challenged the government to do a better job enforcing the city ordinance, which prohibits the sale of airsoft guns, citied their motive for activism as a fear that police officers would mistake the toy for the real thing and murder one of their babies in the street. These “toy guns” – especially when the colorful tips arer removed – looks very much like the real thing to anyone, cop or not.
In Philadelphia, from 2007-2013, more than 15 officer-involved shootings were reported wherein an officer discharged their weapon on an assailant who was in the possession of an airsoft gun… two people were killed, and one of the deceased also had a “real gun.”
And while I can’t remember each case by heart, I do recall one of the sixteen cases, because it’s very similar to Mr. Rice’s. In short, the incident involved juveniles; BB guns; a playground; and the police. Luckily the situation was resolved without fatalities… not because the officer showed discretion and attempted to de-escalate the situation, but because she missed the offender … which now bring me to the actions of the officers in Cleveland.
Though they reported the incident, these officers were negligent and reckless in the way they approached Mr. Rice. If they believed he was a danger and knew him to be armed, they should’ve parked the cruiser further away, ducked behind it, and used their amplifier system to initiate a negotiation, at which point they’d learn this was a child with a toy and apprehended him appropriately.
Also, I believed the reason the officers acted so quickly and aggressively is because they perceived Mr. Rice to a black man, instead of a black kid. Am I now making it a race issue? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing and here’s why.
According to new research published by the American Psychological Association, who tested 176 police officers, mostly white males, average age 37, in large urban areas, to determine their levels of two distinct types of bias—prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people by comparing them to apes—“Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.”
The video of Tamir Rice being killed should break the Internet because the conversation of kids with airsoft guns and cops with racial bias who patrol urban neighborhoods needs to take place in every home, government office and place of worship.
For humanity’s sake, we have to figure out a way to keep all our children alive, while also ensuring common sense and discretion among police and citizenry is exercised almost always.
I’m tired of yelling black lives matter and I’m drained from hearing f*ck the police. I’d much prefer engaging in dialogue about retraining officers and equipping them with body cameras. I’m fatigued from hearing the stories from black mothers about how they instruct their sons to become statuesque when police arrive. I’d much prefer to hear about how black mothers are encouraging their sons to become police officers and serve their community with dignity, respect and honor.
My point is this: the video of Tamir Rice’s killing creates an opportunity for a dialogue about discretion and accountability from both those who enforce the law and those who are expected to follow it. And in the midst of all the shouting from protesters, posturing by government officials and crying from mothers of black sons, a conversation… a dialogue… a moment of perspective in the midst of pain is needed.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™