Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Attorney General Cites 'Systemic Failure' in Police Chase

Attorney General Cites “Systemic Failure” in Police Chase

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released a report of his investigation into the Nov. 29 police chase and subsequent shooting that resulted in the homicides of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams by police fire in East Cleveland.

His report was announced at a press conference attended by Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty, to whom the duty now falls of determining what, if any, charges should be filed against the officers involved.

DeWine’s office has released a number of documents related to his investigation.

His prepared remarks can be found here.

In releasing the report, together with voluminous documentation, all of which may be found here, DeWine was careful not to assign any individual blame. He came closest when he said, “Clearly officers misinterpreted facts, they failed to follow established rules”.

He then seemed to absolve them of personal responsibility for Williams and Russell’s deaths by saying “However, by failing to provided the necessary structure and support, the system itself failed the officers.”

DeWine said that at least 59 police cars were involved in the chase when Cleveland Police Department policy would seem to have called for only two cars to have sustained the chase. His remarks suggest that many of the officers involved behaved in such a reckless and chaotic manner that they risked shooting and killing each other.

“It’s a miracle that many officers were not killed, “ he said. [Video]

By citing the systemic failure of command, communications, and systems failures, DeWine’s report may signal a path that county prosecutor could choose to follow. However, about all that can safely be said at this point is that the report is likely to stoke a sense many in the community have that an armed renegade force can act with impunity and without fear of being held personally accountable.

How and whether that turns out to be the case in this instance is now the responsibility of prosecutor McGinty.

• • •

Below is a statement released by the office of Attorney General DeWine:
Attorney General DeWine Releases Reports, Investigative Documents on Cleveland Officer-Involved Shooting
(CLEVELAND) – In an unprecedented effort to be transparent and provide information to the public, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released reports and investigative documents on the November 29, 2012, high-speed chase and subsequent officer-involved shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. The Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) was requested to assist with the scene in the early morning of November 30, 2012, and on December 3, 2012, was asked by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff and East Cleveland Chief of Police to be the lead agency in the investigation of this incident.  

Below are excerpts from Attorney General DeWine's remarks.   They can be directly attributed to him.

"This is a tragedy – a tragedy for Timothy Russell, a tragedy for Malissa Williams, and a tragedy for their families.  This has also been very tough for each of the law enforcement officers involved.

"To state the obvious, this chase could have ended without tragic results if Timothy Russell had simply stopped the car in response to the police pursuit.  Perhaps the alcohol and cocaine in his system impaired his judgment.  We will never know."  

"Police officers have a very difficult job.  They must make life and death decisions in a split second based on whatever information they have in that moment.  In a situation like this, they are under tremendous stress.  But, when you have an emergency, like what happened that night, the system has to be strong enough to override subjective decisions made by individuals who are under that extreme stress.  

"Policy, training, communications, and command have to be so strong and so ingrained to prevent subjective judgment from spiraling out of control.  The system has to take over and put on the brakes.   

"On November 29, 2012, the system failed everyone."   


Dick Peery said...

Whitewash! By turning it over to the local prosecutor instead of seeking the appointment of an outsider, DeWine has assured that there will be no homicide charges. Even of the policeman who stood on the victims' car and fired 47 times.

Dr.Dee said...

Little by little the Police Union President has given guarded statements. All indicators let us know, no real charges would be handed down, especially when the Chief stated 'training' classes on proper car chase procedures would be held in 2013. We didn't have to wait for an official report. The writing was on the wall. My sole question now is: WHO THE HECK IS GOING TO TRUST ANY CLEVELAND POLICE OFFICER? Shame on DeWine & McGinty for rolling over and playing dead. COWARDS!! IGNORANCE IS NOT A GOOD EXCUSE! 2 PEOPLE, Human Beings are DEAD.

Richard said...

My apologies for the delayed response to your comments.

Dick, many of us did not think that McGinty was the best candidate the Democrats could have put forward in last year's primary. He now has a chance to prove us wrong. I think it is premature to assert "there will be no homicide charges." It would not surprise me to see one or several police officers indicted for manslaughter.
As for DeWine, his office says he has no authority to appoint an independent prosecutor, absent a local request. That legal opinion is disputed by the Ohio ACLU among others.

Dr. Dee: You are right to pinpoint the issue of community trust. I believe the Jackson Administration understands how critical that is and is moving with deliberation partly on that account. The officers on the other hand, seem to have an "us against them" mentality that ensures this will be a community concern for a long time.