City officials in Cleveland aim to turn over investigations into use-of-force incidents to outside personnel after the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy fatally shot by local police in November. Exactly which agency would handle such cases is unclear, but the conversation comes amid heightened scrutiny on how internal forces might affect investigations into police action.
A spokesman for Cleveland safety director and former police Chief Michael McGrath told the Northeast Ohio Media Group Thursday that the city has been in talks with officials in the surrounding Cuyahoga County about handling use-of-force investigations. Currently, Cleveland police investigators are looking into Rice's death, a high-profile case that began on Nov. 22 when an officer mistook a nonlethal "airsoft" gun for a deadly firearm and opened fired on the African-American boy.
“Not only this investigation, but we would like a different, outside agency to handle all deadly use-of-force cases,” said spokesperson Dan Ball. “But nothing's set in stone.”
Surveillance images reportedly show that Rice was shot two seconds after the patrol car pulled up. The case comes after unrest following the deaths of a number of unarmed African-American men, Mike Brown and Eric Garner among them, and a lack of indictments for the police officers deemed responsible.
A recent U.S. Justice Department report that did not include the Rice shooting found that Cleveland police resort to unnecessarily high levels of force in too many situations. In a 2012 case, as reported by the Associated Press, 13 police officers participating in a police chase fired 137 bullets, ultimately killing two unarmed people.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson previously admitted to reporters that he “lost confidence” in the city's Bureau of Criminal Investigation after the Justice Department report.
“The best way to do it is to have external eyes look at anything regarding use-of-force cases,” he said.