The Cleveland Police Department has appeared to acknowledge that the hiring of Timothy Loehmann, the rookie officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a controversial officer-involved shooting last November, was not a fully informed decision as Loehmann’s questionable police background was never investigated by Cleveland Police Department supervisors.
The department found that Lt. Gail Bindel and Sgt. Edwin Santiago, the supervisors in charge of hiring Loehmann, had “failed to adequately supervise and review an applicant’s background investigation” in violation of police procedure. Bindel was suspended for two 16-hour days and Santiago was issued a written reprimand.
Before Loehmann was hired in Cleveland, he was an officer for a brief period of time at the Independence Police Department. A memorandum written by Independence Deputy Chief Jim Polak described issues with Loehmann which Polak determined to greatly impair Loehmann’s ability to remain a police officer, including “emotional perplexity” and “dismal” handgun performance during training.
In addition to mentioning that Loehmann fell asleep during his training on one occasion, Polak described an incident in which Loehmann apparently had an emotional breakdown during firearms training. “I was notified by FTO Sgt. Tinnirello,” Polak wrote, “of the following circumstances related to our recruit, Ptl. Loehmann. A written statement was included. On this date, during a state range qualification course Ptl. Loehmann was distracted and weepy. He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.” According to the memo, Sgt. Tinnirello attempted to give Loehmann time to calm himself down, but “after some talking it was clear to Sgt. Tinnirello that the recruit was just not mentally prepared to be doing firearm training.”
“Sgt. Tinnirello continued to speak with Tim about his problems, and Ptl. Loehmann continued with his emotional meltdown to a point where Sgt. Tinnirello could not take him into the store, so they went to get something to eat and he continued to try and calm Ptl. Loehmann. Sgt. Tinnirello describes the recruit as being very downtrodden, melancholy with some light crying. Sgt. Tinnirello later found this emotional perplexity was due to a personal issue with Ptl. Loehmann’s on and off again girlfriend whom he was dealing with till 0400 hrs the night before.”
Polak noted that Loehmann was “not mature enough in his accepting of responsibility or his understanding in the severity of his loss of control on the range.”
Polak wrote that there were three additional incidents with Loehmann that “would not be considered major situations” individually, but “taken together they show a pattern of a lack of maturity, indiscretion and not following instructions.” The incidents involved Loehmann disobeying orders to keep his weapon properly secured in a locker at night; abandoning a segment of his orientation and lying about being instructed to leave the orientation; and removing his bulletproof vest during training because he was “too warm” despite orders to keep it on so he could become used to wearing it.
Polak recommended that Loehmann be released from the Independence Police Department, and wrote that he didn’t believe that “time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.” Polak asserted that due to Loehmann’s “dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not believe Ptl. Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment. Unfortunately in law enforcement there are times when instructions need be followed to the letter, and I am under the impression Ptl. Loehmann, under certain circumstances, will not react in the way instructed.”
Loehmann ended up resigning on his first day employed by the Independence Police Department in light of Polak’s memo and recommendation. According to Cleveland.com, Loehmann was rejected by at least five other police departments before being hired in Cleveland, and investigators failed to check Loehmann’s Independence personnel file.
Bindel and Santiago have reportedly appealed the discipline measures. Loehmann is currently employed by the Cleveland Police Department on restricted duty. The investigation into Rice’s shooting death is expected to be completed sometime this year and will be presented to a grand jury to determine if Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, will face criminal charges.