When I was 12 in 1946, no police officer approached me as I raced around my neighborhood with a toy gun pretending to finish off leftover World War II enemies. Tamir Rice was 12 when he was gunned down while holding a BB gun that looked like a real gun.
The Dec. 27 front-page article “Officers fatally shoot 965” reported “[r]ace remains the most volatile flash point in any accounting of police shootings. . . . In the majority of cases in which police shot and killed a person who had attacked someone with a weapon or brandished a gun, the person who was shot was white. But a hugely disproportionate number — 3 in 5 — of those killed after exhibiting less threatening behavior were black or Hispanic.”
The Judeo-Christian faith demands we love our neighbors as ourselves. What do we do when our neighbor is a trigger-happy police officer? Or an angry motorist? Or a young black man armed with a gun and dumped into a bad neighborhood along with drugs and other contraband?
Eight decades on the planet remind me that life is precious. Hate and fear are debilitating. Love brings contentment and joy. I do not own a gun. And I am sufficiently committed to the struggle of Black Lives Matter to continue working for serious reductions in gun violence.
Bob Bates, Friendship
The writer is a board member of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Regarding the Dec. 28 editorial “A shield for police misbehavior”:
When I conducted and supervised internal investigations for the Baltimore Police Department related to allegations of excessive force and discourtesy, the officer was the last to be interviewed — by design. Once signed statements from the accuser and all credible independent witnesses were in hand and reviewed, the investigation was basically complete. Based on case load and other circumstances, the investigation could be time-consuming. The officers could have time to conspire with others to “get their story straight,” but it wouldn’t matter. The officers could lie, tell the truth or say nothing and be charged with misconduct for failing to give a statement. A proven or sustained complaint went to the commanding officer for review and punitive action.
The law’s 10-day rule was no hindrance to an administrative investigation, which is what the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights controls, not allegations of criminality. Also, extending the time to file a sworn excessive force or “brutality” complaint to one year would be counterproductive to a timely investigation.
Jim Giza, Baltimore
Can police officers be trained to not put themselves in life-or-death situations? In Cleveland in November 2014, two officers pulled up within a few feet of someone with a gun. They knew nothing else. Was the person suicidal, just showing off, young or old, mentally stable, firing at anyone? Instead of assessing the situation and making contact from a distance, the two officers placed themselves in a position in which any movement by the citizen could become justification for a deadly response.
Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old killed by those police officers, was probably lifting his shirt to show the police officers it was a toy gun. A smart move? Of course not, but he was a child, not an experienced criminal who would know that lifting his hands and freezing in place was the only appropriate response.
When police officers unnecessarily put themselves in a position of having to shoot someone, it is an indication of lack of training. Other police forces have managed to not shoot people who had real weapons in their hands. Why are so many African Americans met by these forced deadly interactions?
Shirley M. Marshall, Alexandria
The Dec. 29 front-page article “Officer in Ohio won’t be charged,” about the police officer who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice, left out a crucial fact: The orange tip designed to identify the plastic gun as a toy had been removed to make it look like a real gun. The purpose of the orange cap is to prevent such accidental shootings.
Surely the grand jury took this into account, but The Post didn’t give its readers this essential bit of information.
Marjorie Kravitz, Rockville