The Tire Nichols case revives the call for change in America

MEMPHIS, Tenn. –

An unarmed black man who died after being beaten by police was videotaped. The officers involved were all fired. After a thorough review of the evidence, criminal charges were quickly filed against the offending officers.

Investigations, accountability and accusations.

This is often what many Black citizens can hope for most as the deaths continue. Nationally, police have killed about three people a day continuously since 2020, according to academics and police reform advocates who track such deaths.

Tire Nichols’ deadly encounter with police officers in Memphis, Tenn., captured in video released Friday night, is a stark reminder that efforts to reform policy have failed failed to contain more tipping points in a brutal, incurable pandemic.

Nearly 32 years ago, Rodney King’s brutal beating by police in Los Angeles prompted sincere calls for change. Since then, they have been repeated with a constant rhythm, punctuated by the deaths of Amadou Diallo in New York, Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and many others.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 left viewers deeply saddened, it summoned a national ruling that included proposed federal law in his name and showed the solidarity of corporations. and sports federations. All has failed to achieve a change in the culture of law enforcement Black people in America have called for — a culture that promotes freedom from fear, trust in the police, and mutual respect.

“We need public safety, don’t we? We need law enforcement to fight rampant crime,” said Jason Turner, senior pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis. “Besides, we don’t want those who have sworn to protect and serve us to torment us for a simple traffic stop or any criminal act.”

Five Black officers have now been fired and are charged with murder and other charges in the death of Nichols, a 29-year-old skateboarder, FedEx worker and father of a four-year-old boy. January 10.

From the police and the district attorney’s office to the White House, officials say Nichols’ murder shows the need for bolder reforms that go beyond simply diversifying ranks. change rules for the use of force and encourage citizens to file complaints.

“The world is watching us,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said. “If any luck is to be drawn from this very large dark cloud, then perhaps this incident could open up a broader conversation about the need for police reform.”

US President Joe Biden joined national civil rights leaders in calling for similar action.

“To bring about real change, we must hold accountable when law enforcement officers break their oaths, and we need to build lasting trust between law enforcement, their representatives, and their representatives. the majority of those who wear the badge honorably and the community they are sworn to serve and protect,” the president said.

But Memphis, where 628,000 residents host barbecues and blues and lament, is where Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated, have witnessed this before. The city has taken the steps advocates call for in its “Policy Reset” initiative in 2021 and reflects a series of policy changes reformers want all departments to make. immediately, called “8 Can’t Wait”.

De-escalation training is now required. Officers are required to limit the use of force, exhaust all alternatives before using deadly force, and report all uses of force. Tennessee has also taken action: State law now requires officers to intervene to prevent abuse and reporting excessive force by their colleagues.

Demonstrating unusual transparency for a police department, the MPD now publishes accountability reports that cover the race of those subjected to force each year. They found that black men and women were the most subjected to rough treatment in 2019, 2020, and 2021. They were the subject of nearly 86% of gun, baton, pepper spray, and beating incidents. Physical beatings and other violence were recorded in 2021, the total nearly doubling that year to 1,700 cases.

Seven uses of force by Memphis police ended in death during these three years.

“I don’t know how much more our community has to pay for Black deaths to convince elected officials that the policing system isn’t broken — it works exactly as it was designed to. , at the cost of Black lives,” says Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, co-executive director of the Highlander Center for Research and Education, a Tennessee-based civil rights leadership training school .

The Nichols case — just one of several atrocities reported nationally this month — exposes an uncomfortable truth: More than two years on from the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks caused During the protests, police reforms did not significantly reduce such homicides.

According to a recent analysis by Howard, states approved nearly 300 police reform bills in the wake of Floyd’s murder, creating civilian oversight of police officers, more anti-bias training, and limited use of police force. Stricter use of force and alternatives to arrests in cases involving persons with mental illness. Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland.

Despite calls to “defile the police,” an Associated Press review of police funding across the country found only modest cuts, largely due to the associated shrinking revenue. to the coronavirus pandemic. Budgets grew and more officials were hired for several large departments, including New York City.

Still stuck in Congress is the George Floyd Policy Justice Act, which would ban racial profiling, chokeke and bans, restrict the transfer of military equipment to police departments and make it easier to bring in to bring charges against the offending officers. Biden said he told Nichols’ mother he would “recommend” Congress to pass the Floyd Act “to get this issue under control.”

Pastor Al Sharpton said his eulogy at Nichols’ funeral on Wednesday will include a call for the new legislation to be enacted. NAACP President Derrick Johnson also put Congress in charge.

“By not writing one piece of legislation, you are writing another obituary,” Johnson said. “Tell us what you will do to honor Tire Nichols… We could name all the victims of police violence, but we can’t name a single piece of legislation you’ve passed. over to solve that problem.”

Advocates want state and federal legislation because the local changes vary widely in scope and effect and could be overturned by an election after years of grassroots activity. But some say strict regulations are just the beginning — and Nichols’ video of agony proves it.

Katie Ryan, director of Operation Zero, a group of academics, policing experts and activists working to end police violence, said: “Rules change doesn’t change behaviour. “The culture of a police department has to shift to actually implementing the policies, not just saying there’s a rule.”

The five officers charged – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith – were part of the so-called Scorpion unit. Scorpion stands for Street Crime Activity to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhood.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis disbanded the unit on Saturday.

“It is in everyone’s best interest to permanently disable the Scorpion unit,” she said in a statement.

In response to Davis’ move, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said it was clear that the officers involved in the Nichols attack violated department policy and training.

“I want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again,” Strickland said in a statement. “We are initiating an independent, external review of the training, policies and operations of our specialist units.”

The Memphis police union has offered its condolences to Nichols’ family, saying it is “committed to doing justice and NEVER condone the mistreatment of ANY citizen nor ANY abuse of power”. what force.” The statement also expressed confidence that the justice system would reveal “the full facts” of the case.

Patrick Yoes, national president of the Brotherhood of Police, dismissed the conclusion that policy must change. This is not “legitimate police work or an illegal traffic stop,” says Yoes. “This is a criminal attack under the pretext of the law.”

Protesters reappeared Friday night after the city released the video. Turner, pastor of Memphis, calls the images “further proof that our city and nation’s criminal justice system is in dire need of change.”

“It’s not that we lack specific, sensible recommendations,” said Pastor Earle Fisher, senior pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. “What we lack is the political will and commitment to make structural changes.”


Associated Press reporter Noreen Nasir contributed from Memphis, Tenn. Adrian Sainz also reports from Memphis. Aaron Morrison reports from New York, and Claudia Lauer from Philadelphia.

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