Police Union Sues Toy Gun Maker For Not Doing Enough To Keep Cleveland Cops From Killing 12-Year-Old Boys

from the who-will-it-sue-now-that-it's-shot-itself-in-the-foot? dept

In the world of law enforcement, there’s very little more ridiculous than police unions. That’s the unfortunate side effect of feeling compelled to defend every “bad apple,” no matter how rotten they are. The Cleveland police union has reached the apotheosis of law enforcement spin — this time taking the form of a lawsuit that looks like a punchline.

First, some backstory. In 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by a Cleveland police officer as he played with a toy gun in the park. A caller reported Rice, saying he was waving around a gun. The caller also said it was likely the person they saw was a juvenile and the gun was likely a toy. This information was not passed on to the responding officers, who boldly/stupidly raced across the park lawn to within feet of where Rice was standing and shot him two seconds after exiting their vehicle. The “gun” Rice had was an Airsoft replica with the bright “not a gun” tip removed.

Had the dispatcher passed on the mitigating factors, Tamir Rice might still be alive. Had the officers decided to approach this tactically, rather than like an out-of-control half of a buddy-cop movie cliche, Tamir Rice might still be alive. But, as the Cleveland Patrolmen’s Association sees it, the problem wasn’t bad communication and worse tactics. The real problem here is toy gun makers.

The Cleveland Patrolmen’s Association announced it will soon be filing a lawsuit against toy gun manufacturers in federal court.

CPPA attorney Henry Hilow told News 5 the civil lawsuit will not seek financial damages, but rather seek to restrict the design of toy guns, so they don’t look so realistic.

“These fake weapons put the community at risk, puts law enforcement at risk, something has to be done,” Hilow said. “The remedy that we’d be looking for is that that gun could not replicate. That that gun would be of such a color have such a tip.”

Airsoft guns do look realistic, minus the bright orange tip that comes standard. Anyone can remove the tip… just like anyone can create a real gun that looks fake. None of that matters, though, as attempts to create vicarious liability tend to fall apart under judicial scrutiny. And, notably, the Cleveland Police Union has never attempted to sue the manufacturers of real guns, despite them being involved in almost every situation where officers have shot at people or been shot by them.

As Popehat pointed out on Twitter, this is likely only the first of many police union lawsuits:

Next to be sued by police: Coach for making wallets and God for making black people’s hands and waistbands

So far, the CPPA stands alone in its jackassery. But it has hopes that others similarly situated will beclown themselves for the dismayed amusement of the nation:

He said the CPPA is looking for support from other police unions in major cities like Columbus and Dallas.

I applaud the union’s willingness to take a stand in court against the maker of an item held by a person one of its members killed. Anything that draws more attention (albeit inadvertently) to the trigger-happy tendencies of Cleveland police officers and the increasing ridiculousness of police union statements and actions is fine by me.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: cleveland patrolman's association

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Police Union Sues Toy Gun Maker For Not Doing Enough To Keep Cleveland Cops From Killing 12-Year-Old Boys”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Police = Right

Well that and the standard position on every police union I’ve read about can be summed up as:

Police are never wrong. Ever. No matter what they do they are always in the right and their actions were justified.

It’s not their fault they showed up and immediately gunned down a kid without so much as a simple check, clearly it’s the fault of the kid for having something that forced them to murder him, and the toy manufacturer for making something that forced them to murder him.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would also ask questions of the person phoning the police. This a a twelve year-old in a park.
Would you keep your distance because this child is a potential terrorist about to kill? I bet he was running about shooting his friends, and arguing about staying dead. The circumstances to make it ‘dangerous’ would be outrageous. Sitting alone sighting random people? What else could a twelve-year old do in a park?
Then the cops take 2 seconds to determine a threat and eliminate?
Human life is cheap.

Lisa Westveld (profile) says:

Simple solution

The solution is reasonably simple, and countries like the Netherlands use this solution and are extremely strict with this: Ban all realistic-looking toy guns!
Simply put, if you own something that could be mistaken for a real gun then you can be arrested and the toy will be confiscated as evidence and be destroyed. You will get a warning or fine. (Worst case? 9 months imprisonment or €20,900 fine if you have a collection or used it to commit a crime.) But possession of realistic-looking toy weapons is severely discouraged in the Netherlands.
So ban the realistic-looking toy weapons and this mistake should never have to happen. The next time a 12-year old will be shot by the police will be because he had a real gun instead.
Which is still no excuse to shoot immediately on sight!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Simple solution

Your solution doesn’t do much good when things like cellphones are taken as guns, or just moving your hands near your waistline even if it is in the act of moving them from your thighs to fully raised. The problem is in the system, the training of the cops and the lack of personal liability for unconscionable actions, plus a few others.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Simple solution

Yeah, banning realistic looking toy guns wouldn’t have saved ANY of the people killed with toy guns we’ve read about in the last few years. Like the cops in this story, they jump into the scene without advance recon and shooting from the get-go.

The only thing banning realistic toy guns would do is making the subsequent law-suits against the police only SLIGHTLY easier. Not much, either, given how much the courts side with the police these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Simple solution

Well you would also have to ban people wearing clothes!!! How many people have been shot because there hands were in the so called wrong place and the police thought they were grabbing for a gun. Now if you’re NUDE, where are going to hide a gun?

Somehow I still think people are going to get shot. Where does it end? The police rush out with guns drawn and just start shooting and asking questions later. They know they can pretty much get away with anything. The Union protects them, the Blue Line protects them. First response is always the GUN.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Simple solution


While I like to think that what you suggest would help, the problem is bigger than toy guns. It seems like you can get shot if you have a toy truck, by a "sharpshooter" no less who apparently can’t, with his superior skills and equipment, tell a toy truck from a toy gun.

The problem isn’t the toys. The problem is the police who, despite their cache of arms, are cowardly shitbags.

Lisa Westveld (profile) says:

Re: Simple solution

Just to make things more clear: a ban of realistic-looking toy weapons won’t solve the trigger-happy police problem. Police in the USA tends to shoot first and ask questions later. Solving that problem is a whole different problem.

But, it started with a realistic-looking toy that this boy was playing with. A toy that some people thought was real! People would have been less suspicious if the whole thing was orange. It could have even been a real orange gun and people would be much less worried about it until they realize it is real. But people want to feel safe and a gun-wielding person in the streets seems very unsafe. People aren’t paranoid enough to consider anything as a possible weapon. Well, not yet anyways…

In this case, the police has an excuse that they thought the weapon was real. It was a fake gun but the only way to know this was by an orange tip, which had been removed. So they shoot, as they have been trained to do! The boy dies but the “dangerous situation” has been resolved.

When you walk around with a gun, you could expect that someone will consider you hostile and they will shoot you before you can shoot them. Even if the gun is fake. By removing any fake weapons from the market that are too realistic, you can avoid this. You can make people less scared of a kid with a toy gun if the gun is bright orange and looks fake. (Yes, even if it is still real!) It is all about perceived threat.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Simple solution

The thing is, people can walk around with real guns and it is respected. A child too young to even fire a potentially real gun without hurting anyone but himself with the recoil is not the problem. (They shot him because he couldn’t possibly be old enough to have a permit?)

We can see your angle, it just doesn’t apply very well in the States.

Lisa Westveld (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Simple solution

Yeah, well. Unfortunately that’s not true. A white man can walk around with a gun and while people might ask questions about why is is carrying, he will generally be allowed to carry his weapon.
A person of color, any color, will more likely be stopped and temporarily detained for questioning. It is also possible that he will be shot first by the police.
Race also matters! See this experiment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXv2Pjtc3Zk
I think this boy would have still been alive if he was white…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Simple solution

Did you not read? The Orange Tip of the toy gun was still there!!! The Boy still got shot. The simple matter is you could make a real gun Orange by painting it. Cops these days shoot first and ask questions later.

What’s worse, they shoot the crap out of you, you’re on the ground dying, or dead and then they go handcuff you like you’re going to do something. It’s just crazy. The police these days are just mostly thugs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Simple solution

The problem was not caused by a product. Kids play with toy guns all the time, and don’t get shot, except euphemistically.

The problem was caused by an overeager trigger happy cop who figured he would not be called to account. Given the number of police in the US with the same attitude, that’s a big, big, big problem.

And BTW, FU.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Simple solution

If you make toy guns loik veey different from real guns you don’t just fix one problem, you fux two.

First is the police issue. If it does not look like a gun then police are less likely to make a mistake.

Second you make toy guns a poor choice for criminals.
If every gun looks like a lime green buzz lightyear gun people won’t use them for holdups or robbing stores.

There us plenty of upside and very little downsides. Kids will play with them no matter what they look like.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Simple solution

1) ‘Simple’ solutions are very rarely effective solutions, as serious problems are rarely simple ones. A ‘simple’ solution might address the surface of the problem(‘the kid had a toy gun, he was shot, remove the gun and he surely wouldn’t have been shot’), leaving behind the underlying issue(‘shoot first,investigate the corpse mindset that resulted in a cop pulling up right next to what they apparently thought was a kid armed with a deadly weapon, opening fire without bothering to check if that was the case’) to fester and get worse.

2) Nice strawman, but no. Objections to responsibility being dumped on the wrong party is fairly common on TD, but if a company/individual screws up odds are good that the blame will be placed on their actions/inaction if it’s reasonable to do so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Simple solution

The simple solution would be to stop hiring policemen that have an IQ equivalent to a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal, instead of present policy where anyone smarter than that is rejected.

I know you have a vested interest in ensuring that your personal army of goons to protect your “feels” have as little cognitive ability to question your decisions as possible. But when they regularly mistake toys, video game controllers, mobile phones for loaded weaponry, enough is enough.

me says:

Re: Why is that not a premeditated murder charge?

Because that would be absolutely silly. The actual facts are that the popo rolled up on a scene with a person wearing several layers of clothes waving a very realistic looking pistol in a public park.

Sorry but this is 1 time when the police did what they were supposed to do which was shut down an obvious and immediate threat of a person with a gun.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Why is that not a premeditated murder charge?

an obvious and immediate threat

To who? It was a kid in a park, they hadn’t ‘shot’ anyone with the toy gun(the fact that such wasn’t possible probably helped there), the person who called it in noted both of these facts, so exactly who was being ‘protected’ by showing up and immediately murdering the kid?

Even assuming the worst scenario, that it was someone with a real gun and possible deadly intentions, how hard would it have been to approach from a distance with someone else providing cover to ascertain their intentions and disarm without killing them if possible?

Not to mention, if they did think they were dealing with an armed individual, how colossally stupid do you have to be to think that driving up right next to them before getting out is a smart thing to do?

‘An unknown person(kid or not) might be a threat’ is hardly justification to execute them on the spot, so it’s a little absurd that you seem to be arguing that they were justified here when that’s all they had to go off of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why is that not a premeditated murder charge?

No and silly arguments about the officers driving too close are completely irrelevant. Here’s another one: http://www.kmov.com/story/35360570/san-diego-police-killed-boy-15-in-school-parking-lot

It doesn’t matter how much hindsight crap you want to throw at the wall about driving too close blah blah if you wave a fake but realistic looking gun or a real gun at the police you are going to shot.

“when that’s all they had to go off of.” Right. See above. All they saw was a person with a gun. You don’t get to wait and see if the gun is a 9mm, .45 or a bb gun. When the police roll up and see a person with a gun they have to act accordingly.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why is that not a premeditated murder charge?

The police did something incredibly stupid twice doesn’t suddenly make it not a stupid action.

As for aiming a ‘gun’ at the police, it was their own damn fault they were in that position. They had options, they chose the one that would put them right next to who they thought was an armed individual. The ‘threat’ to the police that they were ‘defending’ themselves against only existed because of their actions.

You don’t get to create a problem and then expect applause for ‘solving’ it, especially if the method used results in a kid murdered within seconds of you showing up on the scene.

If a given cop is too trigger happy and/or cowardly, and is willing to execute someone for merely possibly being a threat then they are more than welcome to look for safer jobs elsewhere and leave the job to people less likely to shoot first ask only if forced to later.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why is that not a premeditated murder charge?

Actually it is more risky to drive towards a gunman than it is to run towards them. as a running person can weave much quicker than a car can. Besides which, they could have stopped at a more reasonable distance, used the car for cover and demanded that he put the gun down. But no, the cop decided to drive right up, leap out and shoot the kid.

Deliberately putting yourself in a situation where shoot first looks reasonable, when alternative actions that would have likely resolves the situation without violence, is deliberate murder. A kid playing with what looks like a gun, but with no reports of shots fired, is not a situation that needs such a dramatic and quick resolution as that cop opted for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thanks Partner!

I think that the real fault is the cop that was driving the cruiser. He drove up and left his partner to get out of the car point blank to a “Person with a Gun”. How would you react if you were going to a call like this and bam! here you are right at the end of a gun barrel? Shoot first or ask questions?

MAYBE the driver wanted his partner to get shot since he was going to tell about other “situations” back at the precinct.

Anonymous Coward says:

Item 1 problem is that there are too many guns in the US, and every idiot banger or yahoo has one. Police sadly have to assume that everyone us armed.

Making kids toys look like toya causes no harm, and could help the situation. Why so negative?

TD is pretty good at bkami g everyone else but the responsible party. Its why pirates are never responsible for piracy, right?

Dr. David T. Macknet (profile) says:

Search For Pink M16

Do an image search for “pink M16” or “pink AR-15” and tell me what you see. Yup: those would be actual assault rifles dressed up to be cute and pink. You can skin them however you’d like – there are some Hello Kitty ones floating around.

So. If a real gun can look fake as hell, and a fake gun can look real, what is law enforcement supposed to gain by going after the toy companies?

This is idiotic. Guns in the hands of police are the problem. Take them away and we’d be a hell of a lot safer. Fire the police and we’d be better off still.

Lisa Westveld (profile) says:

Re: Search For Pink M16

Well, pink or not, if it looks realistic enough, people will feel threatened by it. It is that simple. When it is unclear if the weapon is real or not, you have to wonder what the risks are.
But again, this situation had two problems, one of them being a very trigger-happy police who shot an armed child even though gun ownership in the USA is legal. This boy wasn’t shot because he had a gun, but because they considered him dangerous.
So had his gun clearly looked like a fake then he would not be considered dangerous and still be alive. Many of those pink M16’s and pink AR-15’s still look realistic enough to confuse people. People feel less threatened if you point a Buzz Lightyear raygun at them, no matter if it is a real gun or not.

Michael P says:

Not just "feel compelled"!

That’s the unfortunate side effect of feeling compelled to defend every "bad apple," no matter how rotten they are.

Police unions do not just feel compelled to defend everyone they represent; they are legally obligated to do so. That is enough of a problem when it happens, but suing a toy manufacturer goes beyond the call of duty.

My_Name_Here says:

Re: Re:

Nobody is justifying what the cops did. That is part of the problem of this sort of discussion. What the cops did was bad, there is no getting around it. The point is however that the situation was avoidable in many ways, and one of those ways to make the toy gun look like a toy, and not a gun.

The police have issues, no doubt about it. Nobody is excusing them. But come on, let’s not make things worse by making it harder for them to tell who does and does not actually have a real gun n their hands.

tom (profile) says:

The original caller told the 911 operator that the gun was probably a toy. Presumably they were a lot further away then the officers were when they decided the object was a real gun.
The officers should be subjected to the following reviews:

Eyesight: Could not identify a child with toy at close range.

Situational awareness: Small person in a park with a suspicious object. No reports of gun shots. No reports of injuries. No one running away in terror. No screams of horror.

Tactical training: Had no plan other then charging in with shooting as only option.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: tom on May 6th, 2017 @ 4:01pm


Child was 12 and almost 1.6 meter tall. No easy way to know age for sure.

Gun had been modified to remove the orange tip to make it look more real

The area of that park has strong gang activity.

The police would be strung up if they let someone armed walk around a park they have to take it seriously.

This officer was trigger happy and nade a bad situstion much worse. But with an obviously fake gun the officer would never have been in that position to start with.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...