Tamir Rice’s Killer Went Free Because of the “Reasonableness Test.” It Didn’t Have to Be That Way.


When is it appropriate to criminally punish police officers who kill in the line of duty? This question—central to the decision this week of a Cuyahoga County grand jury not to indict the police officers involved in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice—has become increasingly important over the past two years, as public scrutiny of law enforcement tactics has intensified. The problem is legal experts can’t seem to agree on how it should be answered. 

The prosecutor in the Rice case, Timothy McGinty, explained the grand jury’s decision—and his own belief that criminal charges were inappropriate—by bringing up something known as the “reasonableness test.” That legal standard for judging police use of force was established by a 1989 Supreme Court decision called Graham v. Connor, and has been applied ever since in discussions about what it means for a police killing to be justified or not. <Read More>