Statement on the Failure to Indict the Police Officers Involved in the Shooting of Tamir Rice

Statement on the Failure to Indict the Police Officers Involved in the Shooting of Tamir Rice

The announcement that a grand jury failed to indict the police officers who gunned down Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy playing with a toy gun in a playground in Cleveland, Ohio, is the latest in the steady drumbeat of injustice for Black people killed at the hands of police: Michael Brown (no indictment); Eric Garner (no indictment); Freddie Gray (hung jury); and Sandra Bland (no indictment).  This pattern of injustice implicates over-policing in communities of color, implicit bias, and structural racism.  The failure to hold perpetrators accountable erodes public confidence in police, prosecutors, and the law.

As 2016 dawns, we are reminded of President John F. Kennedy’s report to the American people on civil rights in 1963: “The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city where legal remedies are not at hand. We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act…”

At the Lawyers’ Committee, we believe that police departments must be accountable to the communities they serve.  It’s why we are working hand-in-hand with community allies to fight against discriminatory practices in the Boston Police Department.  In Massachusetts, police are fighting community representation and accountability in high-profile discrimination cases, including Smith v. Boston, Jones v. Boston, and Lopez v. Lawrence.  The federal government stood up for the communities served by the Lawyers’ Committee, and filed a brief against Boston and other municipalities.

The Lawyers’ Committee calls on the federal government to stand up for Tamir by investigating the integrity of the legal process in his case.

We also call for transparency and community inclusion in policing, officer recruitment and promotion, and civilian complaints.

For all of us, the civil rights struggle continues.

The Lawyers’ Committee’s Executive Director made the case for independent prosecutors in connection with police misconduct on the Boston news show, City Line.