CLEVELAND (AP) — A 911 dispatcher who took a call that led to a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a 12-year-old black boy outside a recreation center has been suspended for eight days. Police Chief Calvin Williams found in a disciplinary letter dated March 10 that Constance Hollinger violated protocol the day of the shooting of Tamir Rice, who had been playing with a pellet gun.
Tamir was shot within seconds of a police cruiser skidding to a stop just a few feet away from him in November 2014 outside the Cleveland rec center. The city’s internal disciplinary charges accused Hollinger of failing to tell the dispatcher who sent the officers to the rec center that the man who called 911 about “a guy” pointing a gun at people also said it could be a juvenile and the gun might be a “fake.”
That omission was cited by former Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty as a crucial mistake that impacted how officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback responded. Loehmann shot and killed Tamir less than two seconds after they arrived.
McGinty said the shooting might have been avoided if the information from the 911 caller had been properly relayed to the officers. Cleveland safety director Michael McGrath handed down a two-day suspension for police officer William Cunningham, who was working off duty without permission at the rec center, in a disciplinary letter dated March 10.
A message seeking comment on behalf of Hollinger and Cunningham was left for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, said in a statement issued Tuesday by her attorney that Hollinger’s eight-day suspension was “unacceptable.”
“Eight days for gross negligence resulting in the death of a 12-year-old boy,” Rice’s attorney, Subodh Chandra, said in the statement. “How pathetic is that?” Chandra said that if that is the best “that system can offer, then the system is broken.”
Loehmann and Garmback, who weren’t criminally charged, face possible discipline by McGrath that could result in them being dismissed from the Cleveland police department. Loehmann’s disciplinary letter cites his failure to disclose in an application that the Independence Police Department, where he worked for six months, had placed a letter in his personnel file saying he had an “inability to emotionally function.” Garmback’s disciplinary letter accuses him of driving too close to Tamir and failing to report the time of arrival at the recreation center.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association president Steve Loomis has said the officers did nothing wrong the day Tamir was shot. Investigators said the boy was handling a pellet gun that officers believed was a real firearm.
Samaria Rice has called for the two officers to be fired. The city agreed last April to pay Tamir’s family $6 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit.