Guilt by association?

The killing by police of a 12-year old boy Tamir Rice who had been reported on a 911 call as waving around a toy gun has caused a major controversy in Cleveland, coming so soon after the events in Ferguson. You can see the video of the events leading up to the shooting here.

What happened was that the boy had a toy gun that he was waving around on the sidewalk near a small park that had a gazebo in which another person was sitting. That person made a 911 call and told the despatcher what he saw and said that he suspected that the gun was fake. The person left the gazebo and Rice was left alone in it. The despatcher told the police but did not report the possibility of the gun being a fake. The police drove right up to the boy and he was shot at close range almost immediately after their arrival.

Questions are being raised as to why, if they thought he was armed, they drove up so close to him and shot so quickly. Recall the case where an adult man was waving an assault rifle on the sidewalk near a strip mall and shouting threats against the police. In that case, police shut down the street, kept their distance, and talked him into laying down his weapon. I speculated at that time of how differently the police might have reacted and how ugly things could have turned out if it had been a black (and young) man involved. Now we know.

What has caused even further outrage is an article in the Plain Dealer that said that the boy’s father had a history of domestic violence. Read the comments to the article as people wonder what purpose this article served other than to somehow taint the boy. After all, what has the boy’s father’s history got to do with this event since he was nowhere near the scene?


  1. Bob Jase says

    How many ‘open carry’ events did the cops open fire at? How about Cliven Bundy??

    Something about black teenagers makes them more acceptable targets than white adults.

  2. lorn says

    The law and police protocols demand attention to subtle but important differences in the two cases cited:

    The man’s hand is not in a position, with the fingers near the trigger, to fire the weapon, and the muzzle is not pointed at the police. The boy is holding what has to be assumed to be a loaded weapon with his finger on the trigger and he points it at an officer.

    The law says you can carry a weapon, whether or not it can be loaded is dependent on the state and local laws, in the open as long as you don’t threaten anyone with it. Holding it in a position to use it and leveling it at anyone is considered an immediate threat and typical police protocols advise shooting first. Typical police training, usually practiced until it becomes reflexive, is to shoot to kill as soon as the threat conditions are met. Coloring outside the lines, independent interpretation of options, is strongly discouraged. The general rule is that under pressure people act as they have been habituated by training.

    In a quirk of the confluence of physics of an attack, human reaction times, law, and police training protocols knives are considered deadly weapons and an immediate deadly threat if within about 20′ of officers or potential victims if there is reason to suspect aggressive intent but independent of how they are pointed.

    I don’t agree with the laws. In my opinion universal open carry is stupid. It is also ahistorical as from colonial times to recently guns were commonly and routinely excluded from a certain locations. Contrary to what the NRA wants you to believe our founding fathers had no problem telling people to abide by reasonable limits on their right to carry.

    Other than a working assumption that all people are at least marginally xenophobic, and inherently suspicious of those not like them, and so always at least slightly racist, I don’t see race as being the pivotal difference in these cases.Although none of this of this rules it out a potential contributing factor.

  3. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    Police brutality is not a race issue. Here we have examples of cops acting with professionalism in one instance, and charging in guns blazing in another. It could just as easily have been the other way around regardless of the race involved. The mainstream media tends to focus almost exclusively on police brutality against minorities while largely ignoring incidents involving whites. A quick search of youtube will show many videos of police brutality involving whites who are clearly not a threat to the cops beating or shooting them. Why is this incident not being broadcast 24/7 in the mass media?

    The media uses a selective focus on police brutality against blacks to generate racial tension between whites and blacks. Black people are given the impression that white society is sending its goons out to kill them on sight, and whites are led to believe blacks will riot and attack them whenever a thug gets shot. If they were to show the many examples of police brutality and murder against white people who are posing no threat whites and blacks might realize they are both being victimized and have grounds to unite together to fight the growing fascist police state that threatens us all.

  4. doublereed says

    @3 Sean

    Yes, police brutality is a racial issue. Statistics have shown this time and time again. It is incorrect to throw out that significant portion of the problem.

    And it’s not uncommon to use racism as a guise to enhance the police state. Hell, that’s pretty much the entire Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs. That’s basically an American Tradition. Scare whites with black people, and then use that to justify further the police state.

    Just because the police state threatens white people too doesn’t mean that race is not involved.

  5. says

    @3 Sean

    Adding to what doublereed has said, anecdotes aren’t evidence. I have little doubt that “a quick search of youtube will show many videos of police brutality involving whites who are clearly not a threat to the cops beating or shooting them.” But I yawn at that statement because it’s only anecdotal, and anecdotes don’t impress me. As Sean says, there are statistics out there, including statistics gathered by the ACLU. Those I’ll pay attention to, but not YouTube videos.

  6. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    @ doublereed

    We are talking about police brutality and the likelihood police will use more or less force based on race. I see nothing on the link you provided that addresses this issue. Could you be more specific, please? This is a question I have had for a long time.

    @Leo Buzalsky

    You might note that the two examples given in this article are anecdotes as well, with no data attached to make an inference one way or the other. My point was that police brutality against whites exists (as proven by youtube videos) but is largely ignored by the mainstream media.

    The only study I am familiar with states that “Based on the empirical evidence summarized, it appears that few suspect and encounter characteristics are highly influential in determining use of force by police.”

    That is to say that most studies that have attempted to find a correlation between race and other factors with police use of force have either shown no correlation, some correlation or mixed results. This includes the race and gender of the cops involved, as well, though there is some evidence black and Hispanic cops are more likely to use force in certain encounters. The authors concluded that various citizen/cop factors such as race were weak predictors of police use of force.

  7. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    @ drewvogel

    Thanks for the link. I am already familiar with this info and its weaknesses. I agree that at best it indicates a “minimum” of victims, supposedly all “justified.” While it shows a disproportionate number of black people being killed by cops, I don’t think it proves racial bias on the part of cops. It could be the result of more threatening encounters between cops and blacks than whites (no evidence for this I know of), or the fact cops are more likely to use force in high crime areas, meaning there may be factors other than race involved (see the study I cited).

  8. says

    So it’s fine if black people are disproportionately killed by police as long as (you can convince yourself that) it isn’t down to “racial bias”. That’s some serious bullshit, that is. No, the disproportionate impact of state violence on people of color is a problem all by itself, even if every single cop in the whole goddamned country is pure racial sweetness.

    Taking a step back, this obsessive need many people seem to have to pretend that race doesn’t matter is extremely disturbing. Of course race matters. If you happen to be black in a white supremacist society, race matters in every single moment of your life. The ultimate white privilege is believing that race doesn’t matter.

    White America’s ignorant bliss: Why so many “good” white people are completely oblivious

  9. doublereed says

    @10 Sean


    So the fact that militarization and SWAT raids are disproportionately in areas with people of color does not show racial bias? The fact that disproportionate number of black people are being killed by cops does not show racial bias? The fact that Stop ‘n Frisk policies target people of color does not show racial bias? The fact that blacks are 3.73 more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession despite the fact that blacks and white use marijuana at the same rate does not show racial bias? Or so many various others ways that criminal law targets minorities?

    I can show you more links, but the what the fuck is the point if you’re this dense? Jesus fucking christ, dude. I’m with drewvogel, you have an obsessive need to make this not about race for some reason.

  10. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    I don’t respond to insults and strawman arguments. I’m not your outrage object. Get back to me when you are ready to respond rationally to what I actually wrote.

  11. A. Noyd says

    Holy dogwhistling denialism, Batman. Sean is like a climate change “skeptic” claiming to accept global warming but who insists it’s part of a natural cycle rather than something caused by humans. Only with racism instead.

    What’s really irritating is I bet you anything he’d also deny that he’s trying to say black people are significantly more likely to commit crime. Even though that’s exactly what he means by the bullshit about how “high crime areas” and not racism could explain why more black people get brutalized and killed. (Also built into that assumption is the idea that that degree of violence on the part of the cops is reasonable.)

  12. doublereed says

    I did respond to what you wrote. My first link in that series of links is the original one I sent you, and it talks directly about how areas with people of color are disproportionately affected. Maybe you missed it initially, but you acted like it wasn’t there.

    Because you wanted me to be “more specific,” I provided even more links, many of which run counter to your proposed hypothesis. The information is there, but would you like more? That’s just what I got from five minutes over at the ACLU, after all. I got more.

    But you still pissed me off with your whole dismissive stance toward black people’s lives. And you continue to piss me off because you’re making me think that you refuse to do a mental update no matter what evidence you are given. Giving evidence is a waste of time if you never update.

  13. says


    I don’t respond to insults and strawman arguments.

    No, you respond to fact- and experience-based arguments by pretending they’re anything but.

    Get back to me when you are ready to respond rationally to what I actually wrote.

    Pointing out the obvious and significant gaps in your picture seems pretty rational to me. Get back to us when you’re ready to be honest.

  14. says

    …the bullshit about how “high crime areas” and not racism could explain why more black people get brutalized and killed.

    You’d think that cops working a high-crime area could find more actual (or at least reasonably-suspected) criminals to spend their time with. And better training to deal with people more dangerous than the unarmed civilians they keep on blundering into, or at least to tell them apart from kids with toy guns on short notice.

  15. A. Noyd says

    Raging Bee (#18)

    You’d think that cops working a high-crime area could find more actual (or at least reasonably-suspected) criminals to spend their time with.

    And why don’t they move on to genuine high crime areas like Wall Street?

    Oh. Right.

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