On Monday, Tamir Rice's family finally got some closure — one and a half years after police shot and killed Rice, a black 12-year-old — with the city's decision to pay $6 million to settle the lawsuit over the shooting.
Then, the local police union responded to the settlement with a letter to media:
The letter alludes to police mistaking Rice's toy gun for a real firearm, which officers say is what led them to open fire on the 12-year-old at a Cleveland park in November 2014.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Stephen Loomis wrote, "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."
But the toy gun wasn't the only problem surrounding the shooting.
For one, the 911 caller who called in Rice clearly said that the toy gun was "probably fake" and that Rice was a "juvenile"; dispatchers never conveyed those facts to police, who also thought Rice was much older than he was.
Police also rushed into the situation when responding officers pulled their squad car into the park grass, right in front of Rice. From the video footage, this makes it seem like an escalation of force was practically impossible to avoid if Rice really was armed. The result: Officer Timothy Loehmann shot and fatally wounded Rice within two seconds of getting out of his squad car.
This kind of situation, in which police put themselves in harm's way and avoid a serious escalation, is a problem police experts have pointed to before. "We have to get beyond what is legal and start focusing on what is preventable. Most are preventable," Ronald Davis, a former police chief who heads the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, told the Washington Post. Police "need to stop chasing down suspects, hopping fences, and landing on top of someone with a gun," he added. "When they do that, they have no choice but to shoot."
It's impossible to say why the police union didn't raise these issues in these letter. But they're valid concerns.