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Mr. President, Madame Attorney General, You Must Act

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Reprinted from Reader Supported News

A poster of slain 12-year-old Tamir Rice rests within a memorial at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
A poster of slain 12-year-old Tamir Rice rests within a memorial at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
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Without any doubt, the crisis of police use of force, often lethal, against the communities they serve in the United States of America has reached an unprecedented and unacceptable level.

While the killings of people confronted by law enforcement officers continues at record levels, the tenure of the Obama administration has been marked by compassion, but it has also been marked by nearly total inaction.

The Justice Department, under the guidance of then-incoming attorney general Loretta Lynch, in fact stated as an objective greater cooperation with police departments, with no apparent plan whatsoever to confront police killings raging across the nation. Officially, Attorney General Lynch hasn't even recognized that a problem exists. As it stands now, it is the position of the attorney general that local and state police agencies should not even be required to keep statistics on the number of people they kill.

It is left to independent reporting to tabulate the staggering numbers. The Guardian's running count of people killed by police is called The Counted. They list 1,136 people killed by U.S. police in 2015. Also quite helpful are the efforts of a small organization, They put the number of those killed by police in 2015 at 1,200.

Former attorney general Eric Holder was at least willing to litigate Consent Decrees mandating a few reforms at some departments. However no action was ever filed against any officer for any killing, regardless of the circumstances. Litigation cannot stop a bullet. When the killers go uncharged and unpunished, the killings continue.

The circumstances in many of the cases not only rose to the level of establishing probable cause, they often portrayed conduct on the part of the officers involved that was so brazen as to demand justice. But justice from the Department of Justice was never forthcoming.

The killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann was a stark example of the human cost, the suffering caused by police officers empowered to use lethal force with virtual immunity from prosecution.

The shocking video of Loehmann gunning down a child is just the first piece of evidence in a case that demands action. After shooting the 12-year-old, Loehmann falsified his report to investigators, telling them that he had instructed the child several times to drop the pellet gun he was holding. Loehmann was lying. He simply jumped out of the patrol car and gunned the boy down. No warning, no protocol -- just two bullets.

The presence of a pellet gun in Tamir's possession is used to justify his killing. A completely false premise. In fact, carrying an unconcealed firearm publicly in Ohio is completely legal. A choice made by the voters of that state.

It's not surprising. One of Loehmann's firearms training instructors was so concerned about Loehmann's instability that he literally confiscated Loehmann's guns during a training exercise.

The training instructor, Deputy Chief Jim Polak of the Independence Police Department, described an "emotional meltdown, dangerous loss of composure, dismal handgun performance." Polak concluded, "Individually, these events would not be considered major situations but, when taken together, they show a pattern of a lack of maturity, indiscretion, and not following instructions ... I do not believe time nor training will be able to change or correct these deficiencies."

Clearly there was a threat to public safety at the Cudell Recreation Center on November 22nd, 2014, but it was Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, not Tamir Rice. Tamir just paid the price.

The prosecutor, Timothy J. McGinty, was free to do or say anything he wanted with the Grand Jury convened in the case, and no one is ever allowed to know what that was. There is zero accountability, and as a result zero credibility there. None.

When state and local authorities will not prosecute local police, the last recourse for victims is the United States Department of Justice. You know well that this is your sworn duty.

The inaction of the Obama administration and the Justice Department can only embolden men like Timothy Loehmann. The message is: "Regardless of the facts, federal law enforcement will not intervene." In fact, throughout the entire Obama tenure that has absolutely been the case.

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, now the founder, editor and publisher of Reader Supported News:

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