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.
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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."