The Rev J. Bennett Guess, a national officer of the United Church of Christ, plans to attend Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s State of the City address tomorrow in order to speak out about the city’s response to a recent lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot dead shortly before Thanksgiving by Cleveland police.
Much of the city’s response deferred to the ongoing investigation by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, but its affirmative defense laid the blame for Rice’s death at the feet of the boy himself and his family:
215. Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury.
216. Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the acts of Plaintiffs’ decedent, not this Defendant.
217. Plaintiffs’ injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant.
220. The intervening acts, including negligence, of persons other than this Defendant directly and proximately caused Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages.
221. Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages complained of were directly and proximately caused by the conduct of individuals or entities other than Defendant.
In a statement on the UCC website, Guess said,
“It is unfathomable that the City of Cleveland would so callously blame a 12-year-old child for his own death, a boy who was shot by police with no clear warning and left to die without first aid,” … “As a Clevelander, I am outraged and embarrassed that government leaders are clearly more interested in protecting the city’s financial liability over addressing the Cleveland Police Department’s repeated civil rights violations and excessive use of force, as cited by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
…”We know there are many good, dedicated members of the Cleveland Police Department, who face great potential danger as they serve and protect the people of this city,” Guess said. “But, at the same time, it is obvious to too many that the City of Cleveland is not being as proactive as it should and must be in critiquing the current practices and patterns that keep our police and neighborhoods at odds with one another. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Religious groups have been following closely not only the Tamir Rice case, but also the city’s response to a Department of Justice report, issued shortly after Rice’s death, which was highly critical of the Cleveland Police Department’s excessive use of unreasonable and even retaliatory force. The report did not include findings on the Tamir Rice case, as it was already near to completion when he died.
Religious coalitions such as Greater Cleveland Congregations and the Cleveland Clergy Alliance have made their own recommendations. The GCC handed its Consent Decree Recommendations over to Jackson and US Attorney Steve Dettelbach at a rally last month, according to cleveland.com. The recommendations include calls for updated accountability, community engagement, and proper funding for real reform.
Guess remarked yesterday,
“I am proud of the dozens of Cleveland-area UCC pastors and congregations that have been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of insisting that Cleveland return to the tenets of constitutional community policing that understands the power of grassroots involvement and interaction with its citizens over the confrontational and adversarial models we see exhibited much too often.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Jackson has admitted that the city’s response to the Rice family’s filing was “very insensitive,” and said that the city will file an amended response. The Rice family plans a press conference today to respond to the city’s statements.
Posted by Rosalind Hughes