Sgt. Janell Rutherford had received a two-day suspension after the Office Of Professional Standards pursued a complaint years after the incident. The complaint revolved around the amount of time the teenage sister of Tamir Rice was held in a police car at the scene.
But, an arbitrator just ruled, “…the City failed to meet its burden of proof to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the two-day disciplinary suspension imposed…was for ‘just cause”.
Back in November 2014, a Cleveland officer shot and killed Tamir Rice after police responded to a call of someone outside the Cudell Rec Center pointing a gun at people. The weapon turned out to be an airsoft gun which looked like an actual handgun.
The investigation resulted in no charges against officer Tim Loehmann for the shooting. Yet, the incident still generates fierce debate.
Sgt. Rutherford faced punishment since she was the first supervisor on the scene.
The City did not begin the process of pursuing punishment against her until nearly five years after the incident.
Another officer had placed Tajai Rice, the sister of Tamir Rice who was 14 at the time, in a police car.
The City argued “the detainment of Tajai Rice was unwarranted, unreasonable, and improper”, and, the Sergeant, “did nothing to alleviate her detainment situation during the twenty-seven minutes she was in charge of the crime scene.”
But, the arbitrator found, Sgt. Rutherford “not only had supervisory responsibility for what clearly was a complex and chaotic crime scene but also for the entire First District as the only First District Road Sergeant who was then on duty.”
The ruling also notes the excessive passage of time to pursue discipline pointing out, “Virtually all of the Division of Police fact witnesses are no longer employed by the City, did not participate in the Office of Professional Standards investigation, and did not appear at any of the subsequently held hearings.”
Additionally, the arbitrator wrote, “Basically, the pointlessness of issuing (Sgt. Rutherford) a two-day disciplinary suspension nearly six years after the fact by way of the Safety Director’s decision dated October 29, 2020…is difficult to ignore.”
The ruling awards the Sergeant back pay for the days of suspension.
She recently retired.
The mayor’s office says the city has 90 days to decide whether or not to appeal. A spokesman wrote in an e-mail,
”The city is currently reviewing this matter to evaluate whether there is a basis to move to vacate the arbitrator’s decision.”