Target: William Gonzalez, First Vice President of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association
Goal: Apologize for saying Tamir Rice’s family should use their settlement money to “educate youth” about the dangers of fake guns.
The family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was shot and killed by a police officer while playing with a toy gun, recently received a $6 million settlement in a lawsuit against the city of Cleveland. A Cleveland police union then published a letter addressed to the media, saying that they hope the Rice family will use the money to educate Cleveland youth about the dangers of mishandling fake firearms. This is an outrageous case of victim-blaming, and it is disrespectful and insulting to the Rice family.
Video footage of the shooting shows that the officer shot Tamir Rice no more than two seconds after he got out of the police car — no time to assess the situation and realize that Tamir Rice was a child holding a fake fun. The 911 dispatcher also did not tell the police officer that the gun was “probably fake” as the person who made the 911 call said. It is easy to see that Tamir Rice was not at fault for playing with a fake gun — an item widely available in toy stores.
Tamir Rice is one of hundreds of black victims of police shootings. Studies have shown that black people are significantly more likely to be shot by police than white people. When there is so much evidence to suggest that institutional racism is alive and well within the police force, the insinuation that Tamir Rice was shot because of his fake gun is willfully ignorant and insensitive. The police union shows no willingness to improve police practices so that black people do not have to live in fear of being killed for no reason.
Sign the petition below to demand that the police union apologize for its comments and commit to reforming the police department.
Dear Mr. Loomis,
You recently sent a letter to members of the media saying that you and your fellow police union members hope Tamir Rice’s family uses their settlement money to educate youth about the dangers of playing with fake firearms. This is an outrageous and insensitive statement that has undoubtedly caused more pain for the Rice family.
The evidence that racial bias influences police shootings is abundant. Studies have shown that black people are significantly more likely to be shot by police than white people. To blame Tamir Rice’s death on his fake gun, in the face of all this evidence of institutional racism, is appalling.
It is time for police unions to show some humility. The community that you are supposed to protect does not trust you, and you must do something to earn back that trust. I urge you to retract your statement and issue a formal apology to Tamir Rice’s family, both for Tamir’s death, and for the way you engaged in victim-blaming. I urge you also to commit to reform the police department so that no more innocent lives are taken, and black people no longer have to live in fear.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Tony Webster