One of my G+ peeps turned me on to a situation in Cleveland that really should be a national story, but isn’t so I’m writing about it. Please share this, since it needs to go viral. We need to stop something very bad from happening in Cleveland. More specifically, Cleveland PD. I know what you’re thinking, "It’s too late, very bad things have already happened with Cleveland PD since they’re under federal investigation for excessive force, and one of their officers murdered Tamir Rice". You would be correct, but more bad things may be happening.
I’m going to briefly recap the situation in Cleveland, since I want this piece to be relatively short and quickly readable. We all know about the Tamir Rice shooting by now, and have probably seen the video (it’s on youtube). And some of you are familiar with the history of the officer who murdered Tamir. If you’re not, let me give you the highlights. Officer Timothy Loehmann joined Cleveland PD in March of this year. This was a year and a half after he was forced to resign from the Independence Police Department, who found him unfit to serve as a police officer on their force. Here’s a copy of the memo that the deputy chief of the department sent to HR (that’s important but I’ll get to it later). In that memo, the deputy chief described Loehmann as follows, "dangerous loss of composure during live range training" and an "inability to manage personal stress." And he made the following recommendation, "I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies".
Loehmann subsequently resigned. When he applied to work for Cleveland PD, they were aware of his previous employment with Independence. Loehmann’s background check went like this;
Interviewer: Hey Loehmann, are there any disciplinary actions or incidents that we should be know about before hiring you?
Interviewer: Alrighty then!
To be fair, they did also call HR at independence. That HR person’s comments were (according to Cleveland PD) limited to letting them know that he resigned due to personal reasons. The whole truth of the situation is that he submitted his resignation for "personal reasons" after he was told that a disciplinary process of separation had begun. Whether that last piece of information was included in his personnel record or not is up for debate.
And this brings us to today. 133 police cadets will be graduating, and becoming full fledged members of Cleveland PD tomorrow. Among them is this guy:
His name is Brandon Smith. If you live in Cleveland, you need to burn this picture into your mind. Why? Cause little Brandon here isn’t new to law enforcement. He served on the East Cleveland police force for a few months in 2012, until he resigned right before he was about to be fired. Fired? Yeah, fired because he and his partner shot 10 – 11 bullets into the car of a woman who was fleeing from the cops. She was pulled over for running a red light. They thought, that instead of putting her license plate out there in the "be on the lookout" list, or following her until she ran out of steam, they would fire copious amounts of bullets into her car. Here’s just one news story on the incident at the time it happened. Why do I share that link?
- Google is awesome, especially if you’re an HR person like I am
- The article says that Smith was fired.
This is important because if I can find a story that says he was fired, the HR department for Cleveland PD can find it too. What Cleveland PD is claiming isn’t clear to me. I keep finding the same article on several local news sites that all contain exactly the same text (isn’t McJournalism grand?):
"Cleveland City Hall points out Smith was never hit with criminal charges for it. Cleveland’s Department of Public Safety had been under the impression Smith was fully cleared. However, the East Cleveland mayor has told us he let Smith resign instead of getting fired."
WTF is going on in this clown car of a city government? Here’s one thing we do know Cleveland PD became aware of; Smith lied on his application when he failed to disclose a lawsuit against him. A lawsuit over the same shooting incident. They knew about the incident if they found out about the lawsuit. They didn’t even take any disciplinary action against him, never mind explore the incident in greater detail.
The problem here is not a lack of communication. It’s a lack of honest communication. Everybody seems to be bending over backwards not to sully these brutish cops’ employment records so they let them resign rather than firing them, or they leave out details of the resignation. No, I’m sorry but criminals don’t get to erase their records even after they’ve been held accountable for their actions by serving their time. Why do cops get to enjoy a lovely (and lethal for their communities) combination of not ever being held accountable, and not ever suffering a single repercussion of their actions?
No, this needs to stop. Most police departments make if very difficult for someone to access the personnel records of their officers. And if those personnel records are legally mandated to be public, they will bury personnel issues within the individual incident reports so that they’re not easily locatable. We need transparency here because it’s clear that everyone or anyone associated with a police department has far too many ways to cover for a bad cop.
This has to stop.
But right now, our immediate concern is in making sure that little Brandon Smith doesn’t hit the streets of Cleveland tomorrow, after his graduation ceremony.
Here’s a link to the petition urging Cleveland PD to fire Smith. Please share!