In late December, the Justice Department found “insufficient evidence to support federal charges” against the two Cleveland police officers who shot and killed 12- year-old Tamir Rice in 2014.
In November of that year, Tamir was by himself in his local park, playing with a pellet gun, until police drove up to him and Tamir was shot once in the stomach and killed. The police acted with unjustified quickness and force against a young person, not even a teenager.
Yet not only did the state of Ohio decline to prosecute the officers after the killing, the federal government has now also declined to, because prosecutors did not find evidence to prove that the officers had intentionally violated his civil rights or lied to investigators with the intent of obstructing a federal investigation.
The Cleveland police department, like many others nationwide, has a history of abuse, mistakes and poor hiring practices. Yet despite long term evidence of the problems, nothing was done about them. And the latest decision by the Justice Department shows yet again that the system gives the benefit of the doubt to cops at the expense of working people and youth, especially if they are not white.
Rice’s shooting was yet another display of how police and the so-called “criminal justice system” function in capitalist society. Police are empowered by the system to monitor and control working people and Black men are those most tightly monitored and controlled. Even a 12-year-old who is Black becomes a threatening criminal in the eyes of many cops. And when police kill an innocent person, most likely Black, the legal system usually lets them go! An exception is when large numbers of people take to the streets, as they did last year after cops murdered George Floyd. The problem isn’t just a few bad apples. It’s the system itself.