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Fired Officer Who Shot Tamir Rice Could Be Back at Another Department

The officer who shot to death Tamir Rice is officially out of job with the Cleveland Division of Police, but with no state regulation he could get another job.
Image: Tamir Rice.
Tamir Rice.Family photo

CHICAGO — The police officer who fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fired from the Cleveland Division of Police this week, more than two years after the deadly encounter drew national attention.

The officer, Timothy Loehmann, isn't out of a job for firing several bullets into the boy, rather for giving false information on the job application that got him the position.

But the axing is not necessarily a career-ender for Loehmann, legal experts said. The state has no regulations that bind fired cops, so Loehmann — who was terminated by the department Tuesday — can be back on the job at another department.

Loehmann hid the fact that he had an "emotional breakdown" during a state qualification course, and that his former employer, the Independence Police Department, concluded he was unable "to emotionally function" in a job application for Cleveland's police force.

Officer Timothy Loehmann in an undated photo.via WKYC

But this omission is not grounds for decertification in Ohio.

Under state law, an officer only loses his license if he gets convicted of a felony or pleads down to a misdemeanor from a felony, said Jill Del Greco, a spokesperson for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission, the state body that oversees officers in the state.

The Commission confirmed to NBC News that Loehmann has not been decertified and still carries a license to be an officer.

There is also no state requirement to report questionable acts or charges lower than a felony to the Commission, according to the law.

While all Ohio law enforcement agencies are required to update the Commission on "changes to the roster, as to who comes and who goes, they don’t have to specify if the individual was fired, retired or resigned," Del Greco said.

That’s because individual departments are supposed to do their due diligence into work history to find out the background of potential hires, she said. "The responsibility is on them," she said.

But departments don’t always do that.

For Cleveland Police, one of the nation’s largest departments, Loehmann was accepted despite being rejected from several other departments throughout the state for his problems at the Independence Police Department.

"There’s no accounting to the public for who it is that failed to check Loehmann’s application, to check his background, to do proper due diligence before entrusting this man with a badge and a gun," said Subodh Chandra, a lawyer for the Rice family on Tuesday.

RELATED: Tamir Rice's Family Settles With City of Cleveland for $6 Million

"You can’t always trust departments to do due diligence," said Roger Goldman, an emeritus law professor at St. Louis University with an expertise on policing laws. "Some will and some won’t."

Tamir RiceFamily photo

"If Cleveland did this properly, he wouldn’t have been hired to begin with," he said.

Goldman said the state law enforcement agencies should require terminations and the reasons behind them to be reported to agencies that oversee departments. "Then it’s all available right there," he said.

About a third of the states, including Ohio, that decertify have similar limited rules when it comes to officer regulation. They simply don't collect the data, he said.

But there are some states, like Missouri, that require a law enforcement agency to inform the state board of any exits and “the circumstances surrounding the departure,” within 30 days.

RELATED: Tamir Rice Case: 911 Dispatcher Suspended for Eight Days

Connecticut prohibits the hiring of any officer dismissed for "malfeasance or other serious misconduct calling into question such person’s fitness to serve as a police officer."

But there is another side to this, said James Pasco, a spokesman for the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Police departments inherently don't want bad officers and do their best to get the best, he said. There has to be some level of trust in that, he said.

This fake handgun was taken from Tamir Rice after he was fatally shot by Cleveland police.Mark Duncan / AP file

In addition, "officers are fired for a variety of reasons and many times they are at the whim of a police chief," he said. "What If an officer was fired because he didn't get along with his chief? Then he'd be blacklisted for life," he said.

The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association said Loehmann was a victim of a witch hunt and that he didn't deserve to be terminated. "There was simply no factual basis on which an unbiased decision maker could conclude" that Loehmann should have been administratively disciplined, the organization said in a statement.

It added that the officer "did not violate any city rules, policies or training," and should be back on the job.

Loehmann and Officer Frank Garmback, who was driving the patrol car when Tamir was killed in November 2014, were disciplined Tuesday. Garmback was suspended for 10 days and also required to take additional tactical training for rules violations related to the incident. A grand jury declined to indict the officers and they were not found criminally liable for the incident.

RELATED: Video Shows Cleveland Cop Fired at Tamir Rice Within Seconds

"There is no question of ineligibility when it comes to Officer Loehmann," said Terry Gilbert, a Cleveland criminal and civil rights attorney who sits on the board of the nonprofit National Police Accountability Project. "Perhaps because of the media attention and negative publicity, it may be harder for him to find a job, but he would still be allowed to."

It's unlike many other professions, he said.

"Medical boards, nursing boards, and other regulatory boards govern and tightly oversee professionals," he said. "But a profession that has the capability of affecting citizens by arrest and use of deadly force has no governing body that is regulating officer conduct," he said, adding that it was all on individual departments to regulate.

Demonstrators hold signs in support of Tamir Rice outside of Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena prior to game three of the NBA Finals in June, 2015.Ken Blaze / USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

There isn’t even a state requirement for continuing education courses, unless a department requires it. But for many departments, "what you learn at the academy makes you qualified forever," he said.

"As a lawyer, if I lie, that could be grounds to losing my license and any disciplinary proceedings are publicly available online, but not for law enforcement," he said.

The push back comes from the "tremendous amount of deference given to officers," he said. "Police departments feel state intervention impedes on them and makes their job more difficult."

Even though Loehmann lost his job, the story isn’t quite over. The cop still has the right to appeal and arbitrate under Ohio law if he doesn’t want to pick up and try his luck at another department.

"It’s very possible Loehmann could prevail in appeals," Gilbert said. "He could very well even get his job back in the Cleveland Police Department,” he said.