ActivismAges 10-12 (Tween)Law

An Open Letter to My Local Police Department: Please Don’t Shoot My Neighborhood’s Kids

Dear District 5 police force, how are you? I hope you all had a safe and happy Holiday Season. It has been a mild winter here in the Queen City so far, but looking at the forecast I see that freezing temperatures are on the way and there may even be a chance of seeing some of that white stuff before long. Bundle up, remember your scarf and oh yeah… just one more thing…


Now under normal circumstances one might consider screaming such an imprecation in a open letter would be unnecessary. One would think that it would never occur to a member of local law enforcement to shoot any kids. But we all know now that some people need an extra reminder, as we found out about a year ago when Cleveland police officers, 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann and 46-year-old Frank Garmback, responded to a 911 call to the Cudell Recreation Center and somehow ended up shooting and killing 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was playing in the park with a pellet gun. Just before the new year dawned, the grand jury empaneled to determine whether to indict the two officers came back with completely unsurprising, but still disappointing results. No charges would be filed.  Now I understand that charges are almost never filed in these sorts of officer involved shootings, because our criminal justice system appears to have no clue how to deal with officer involved shootings. Suffice to say, I don’t want you folks, the good people of District 5, to get the wrong idea from these results, so please allow me to reiterate…Tamir_Rice_family_photo


I love my neighborhood. We’ve lived in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati for 10 years. We’re building a brand new house here. Northside is noted for it’s diversity, we’re a mixed race and income neighborhood flanked by two of the most segregated neighborhoods in the city. We take a lot of pride in that. I know you guys know that, because I see you at our 4th of July Parade and Rock & Roll Carnival,  helping direct traffic, helping keep us all safe. I don’t want to distrust you guys. But I have to. Because shit like this keeps happening.


Tamir Rice was playing in a park, the same way millions of kids do each day. I see them at our local parks, Hoffner Park, Chase Playground, Juergens. But Officer’s Loehman and Garmback didn’t see a kid playing in a park evidently. They pulled up their police cruiser and 2 seconds later Officer Loehman had fired his weapon. As Tamir Rice lay on the ground bleeding they apparently reported an initial estimation of the youngster’s age as 20. Prosecutor and alleged human Tim McGinty said that Tamir looked big for his age.


Research from the American Psychological Association shows that people, perhaps especially law enforcement officers, routinely overestimate the age of black children…

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,”

said author Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles.  And…

“The evidence shows that perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race, and for black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said co-author Matthew Jackson, PhD, also of UCLA. “With the average age overestimation for black boys exceeding four-and-a-half years, in some cases, black children may be viewed as adults when they are just 13 years old.”

This goes just as well for the people who may or may not be calling 911 to alert you to the presence of a scary black man in their park threatening people with a gun. Remember, that could be a kid playing in the park. In fact it probably is a kid playing in the park, because that’ what kids do at the park. Perhaps go with that assumption as your first instinct. Maybe we can avoid repeating the mistakes made in Cleveland last fall. I’d really appreciate it.


Lou Doench, Northsider and Dad.

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Louis Doench

Lou Doench is a 52 year old father of three. Twelve years ago he married the coolest woman in the world and gave up the lucrative career of being a photography student to become a stay at home husband and Dad, or SAHD. An atheist geek, or a geeky atheist if you prefer, Lou likes reading, photography, video gaming, disc golf, baseball and Dr. Who. He has been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1976. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also an excellent home cook, not that his children would know because they only eat Mac & Cheese. Follow Lou on Twitter @blotzphoto or check out his photography at

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