When I read that Cleveland was trying to bill the family $500 for the fatally wounded Tamir Rice to be carried by an ambulance after an incompetent police officer shot the 12-year-old boy as he played with a toy gun in a city park, I began a mental countdown. How long would it be before a public outcry forced the Cleveland municipal government to cover the bill and apologize? It took about a day.
It doesn’t matter how one regards Rice’s death: a racist murder by a cop, excused by the justice system ( black activists, anti-polce race-hucksters and too many journalists and pundits), blatant incompetence on the part of many adults and institutions, leading to the negligent, tragic death of an innocent child (Ethics Alarms), or something in between. The incident was a massive humiliation for Cleveland, its leadership and the police, justifying all of the anger and raw emotion in its aftermath. Tamir and his family were undeniably victims, and the city was the entity that harmed them. If there is a single individual on the city payroll who is incapable of immediately recognizing the grotesque insult of billing the family for removing the body of the dead child killed by city police, then the city itself is untrustworthy and dysfunctional. As it happens, many city employees must have been aware of the disgusting bill, and every one of them should have been smart enough to know that this was one expense the city had to eat or else. Now we know how and why Tamir died. Incompetent people are running the city, and incompetent people are dangerous.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson apologized at a news conference yesterday, and said that the city would pay whatever wasn’t covered by Medicaid. “It was mistake in terms of us not flagging it, but it was not a mistake in terms of the legal process,” Jackson said. This logic echoes the rationalizations for the conduct of “The Worst Aunt Ever,” who sued her 12-year-old nephew to get insurance covered damages.
No, you pathetic, incompetent fool, it was a mistake. Period. It was a mistake that resulted from having ethically-inert, brain dead, inattentive, lazy, rote idiots working for the city at inflated salaries, because any money you pay for a ethically-inert, brain dead, inattentive, lazy, rote idiots is too much. It was a mistake caused by management that allows too many—like one—ethically-inert, brain dead, inattentive, lazy, rote idiots to have any power at all over the lives of citizens. If there was a ghost of the Golden Rule knocking around in the skulls of anyone involved in this idiotic incident, someone would have thought, then said, “Are you kidding me? We’re going to charge the family for the ambulance? When we killed their little boy? That’s insane!” What was done because no one had that faint stirring of justice and common sense was the Bizarro World ethics version of “the ends justify the means.” As Bizzaro himself would put it, “This good deal! Bizzaro Cleveland get 500 dollars, and only need to give up reputation, honor and self respect!
This particular mistake will cost far more than a lousy 500 bucks in lost trust, resentment, anger, and faith in the values and competence of the government.