Public outrage over the beatings of Nichols collides with Washington bureaucracy for police reform
Why Do Black Officers Get Their Own Firefights? After 32 Years of Law Enforcement, a Black Officer’s Death In Memorino
A police captain in Montgomery County, Maryland, is not currently working. She is the founder of The Black Police Experience, which promotes the education of the intersection of law enforcement and the Black community. At Montgomery College in Maryland, she is a professor of criminal justice. Her own opinions are expressed in this commentary. Read more opinion at CNN.
The police brutality against Nichols is reminiscent of the beating of King by police in Los Angeles in 1991, captured on video. But the beating of Nichols is actually much worse because it shows that after nearly 32 years, the needle of police reform has barely moved, and seemingly minor traffic violations continue to lead to the deaths of Black and other minority men and women in police encounters.
A 29-year-old black man was ordered to the ground by officers after they pulled him from his car at a traffic stop and sprayed him with pepper spray. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said that they have not been able to confirm whether or not he was driving recklessly when he was stopped.
In the minutes after the beating, the officers did not render aid. It took an ambulance more than 20 minutes to get to the scene of the crime and the man, identified in preliminary results of the autopsy by attorneys for his family, died three days later.
It was clear to me that the officers lacked supervision, had little professional maturity and were careless with human life, based on my 28 years as a police officer and captain.
The damage is even more traumatic for the Black community, given that the five officers who were charged with murder, are all Black. Members of the Black community often expect Black officers to be their vanguard.
The association’s current stance is unusual. We’ve come to expect responses from police unions that help shield officers accused of wrongdoing from accountability, and it didn’t say anything defending the arrested officers or that they were doing a difficult job.
George Floyd’s death in 2020 has largely replaced calls for police reform, in part due to fears of rising crime. President Biden proposed funding for 100,000 police officers as part of his Safer America Plan and the appropriation bill includes $324 million for more police officers.
However, I know from experience that crime prevention is achieved through trusting relationships between the police and the community it serves, rather than feeding a broken system more police officers. Suppressor units, such as the SCORPION unit which were formed to protect communities from over-policing, can’t be trusted. (On Saturday, the Memphis Police Department announced it will permanently disband its SCORPION unit.)
The expansive policing bill targeting racial bias and use of force was named for another Black man who was killed by police; Mr. Floyd’s death in 2020 at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis shocked Americans and led to a movement for police reform.
Such deaths are preventable, but training or a patchwork of local policies will not be sufficient. The use of no-knock warrants, duty to intervene, use of excessive force and other dangerous policing issues will look like dedication to change through federal legislation that addresses them and the placing of strong political change-makers in office through voting.
The article has been changed to accurately reflect the writer’s experience, she has 28 years of experience in law enforcement, not just as a captain.
The death of Mr. Nichols, whose fatal beating prompted murder charges against five former Memphis police officers, has sparked a renewed push to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The failure of federal legislation was mentioned by President Joe Biden in his statement on Friday, along with the chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.
The Congressional Black Caucus is requesting a meeting with President Joe Biden this week to push for negotiations on police reform, caucus chair Steven Horsford wrote in a news release Sunday.
Gloria Sweet-Love, the Tennessee State Conference NAACP president, called on Congress to step up during a Sunday evening news conference in Memphis. “By failing to craft and pass bills to stop police brutality, you’re writing another Black man’s obituary. You are responsible for the blood of Black America. So stand up and do something.”
The Road Towards a Better Law Enforcement Reform: The New Executive Order, Booker’s View, and the Challenges It Entails
The legislation, originally introduced in 2020 and again in 2021, would set up a national registry of police misconduct to stop officers from evading consequences for their actions by moving to another jurisdiction.
It would bar racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at all levels of government, and it would end qualified immunity that protects law enforcement from accountability.
There is a fact sheet that states that the legislation will save lives, banning chokeholds and no-knock warrants and making deadly force only a last resort.
The negotiations to reach a deal that could garner 60 votes in the Senate were impeded by a number of complicated issues.
“It was clear at this negotiating table, in this moment, we were not making progress,” Booker told reporters in the spring of 2021. “In fact, recent back-and-forth with paper showed me that we were actually moving away from it. The negotiations we were in stopped. But the work will continue.”
With the legislation stuck, Biden signed a more limited executive order to overhaul policing on the second anniversary of Floyd’s death. It took several actions that can be applied to federal officers, including efforts to ban chokeholds, expand the use of body-worn cameras and restrict no-knock warrants, among other things.
The president’s order can’t force the local law enforcement to adopt it; the executive action lays out levers the federal government can use to help local police departments get on board.
The road for police reform is more difficult in the new Congress because Republicans have placed their priorities elsewhere.
State officials are looking into local police departments to make sure the federal government doesn’t take on every case.
The Memphis shooting of Tyre Nichols: Protests against police brutality in the aftermath of the video released on the weekend of his death
Protesters once again took to the streets over the weekend to decry police brutality after the release of video depicting the violent Memphis police beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, and more gatherings and vigils are planned for Sunday.
“All of these officers failed their oath,” Nichols’ family attorney Ben Crump told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday. “They failed their oath to protect and serve. Look at that video: Was anybody trying to protect and serve Tyre Nichols?”
Demonstrators marched through New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, among other cities across the nation on Saturday, raising signs bearing Nichols’ name and calling for an end to abuses of authority.
“We have to fight the bad players in our community, and now we’ve got to fight our own police officers. That is deplorable,” Robinson said. “We’re going to have to do something.”
The five former police officers have been charged with murder, kidnapping, and other charges in connection with the arrest.
The officers are expected to be in court on February 17.
Mills Jr., the attorney for one of the officers indicted, said in a statement Friday night that he did not cross lines that others crossed during the confrontation.
Memphis police will not tolerate a dog like Tyre Nichols, but he would like to stop and watch him walk if he doesn’t
The SCORPION Unit will be dissolved by Memphis police, it was announced Saturday.
But disbanding the unit without giving officers new training would be “putting lipstick on a pig,” city council chair Martavius Jones told CNN Saturday.
Two Memphis Fire Department employees who were involved in the initial care of Nichols have been relieved of duty. Two people with the office have been put on leave.
State lawmakers said they will file police reform legislation before the Tennessee General Assembly’s Tuesday filing deadline.
Hardaway said the bills would seek to address mental health care for law enforcement officers, training, discipline practices, and other topics.
While Democrats hold the minority with 24 representatives compared to the Republican majority of 99 representatives, Towns said this legislation is not partisan and should pass on both sides of the legislature.
“You would be hard-pressed to look at this footage (of Tyre Nichols) and see what happened to that young man, OK, and not want to do something. If a dog in this county was beaten like that, what the hell would happen?” Towns said they were there.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act: A GoFundMe Campaign for a Responsible and Humane Treatment of a Good Boy
As for national legislation, Crump called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled House in 2021 but not the evenly split Senate.
US Sen. Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, called for Congress to revive national police reform legislation and said the previously stalled legislation was a good starting point.
“It’s the right starting point, and Sen. (Cory) Booker, chairman of the crime subcommittee, has been working on this for years. It’s not enough for him and Sen. Scott to sit down again immediately to see if we can revive that effort. He said there is a need for a national discussion about policing in a responsible and humane way.
The 29-year-old was a father and also the baby of his family, the youngest of four children. He was a “good boy” who spent his Sundays doing laundry and getting ready for the week, his mother said.
A GoFundMe created by Nichols’ mother has raised over $1,085,600 as of Sunday afternoon. The donations will go towards the cost of Wells’ and her husband’s mental health services as well as their time off from their jobs, according to the page. They want to build a memorial skate park in honor of the man, who loved skating and sunsets.
My baby was trying to go home to be safe in my arms. The police were respectful to Tyre during the entire encounter.
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As mourners filled the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis on Wednesday to pay tribute to Tyre Nichols, lawmakers, clergy and activists found themselves again calling on Congress to act.
RowVaughn Wells said that they need to get the bill passed. If we don’t, the next child will die and blood will be on their hands.
Democrats want to change the federal code to make it easier to prosecute individual officers. The Democrats bill would include a restriction on the use of deadly force except as a last resort.
“We have to be bold in looking at long entrenched problems, particularly on poverty and systemic inequality,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to look those in the face and we’ve got to fight them, and break down the barriers that have really held many of our residents back from being able to realize their God-given talent.”
After the verdict of the King trial, Ms. Bass and Mr. Adams drew attention to the issue of police brutality.
The legislation that aimed to prevent excessive use of force by police and promoted anti-bias training took a leading role in 2020 as a result of Ms. Bass. It was approved by the House but not yet signed into law, and some of the measures were signed by the president.
“As a city, we have to have a police department that is successful,” Ms. Lightfoot said. It is important for the department to understand that the legitimacy in the eyes of the public is a very important tool, and that we support our officers so that they can do their job.