2/2/2023, 6 p.m.
Horrific. Brutal. Senseless. Inhumane.
Those are just some of terms that apply to the savage and fatal police beating of amateur photographer and young father Tyre Nichols during an unjustified January traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn.
In a case that has drawn national attention, five police officers are facing murder charges for essentially beating Mr. Nichols so badly he succumbed to injuries, while others are being fired or relieved of duty.
What lessons can be learned from an awful situation in which officers who were supposed to serve and protect apparently turned into executioners?
One big lesson is that body cameras are essential because police officers lie. Before the circumstances were investigated, the Memphis department put out a phony statement blaming the victim.
It took the family paying for a private autopsy and the department’s internal review of the footage on the cameras that the officers wore to change the situation.
The same kind of official false narrative was issued in the George Floyd case in Minneapolis until a witness released her camera footage of the police killing on social media.
Police lies are all too common in Richmond, unfortunately, as defense attorneys can tell you.
Just this week, a case alleging that a man named Oliver Holley assaulted a police officer was dismissed when a prosecutor found that the body camera footage undermined city Police Officer Samuel Yoon’s sworn statement about the circumstances.
Another lesson is that elite units with free rein to go after criminals too often become a liability. Memphis, which will send officers to prison and wind up paying millions of dollars in compensation to the Nichols family, is just the latest example of the backfire that can happen.
The officers charged with murder in the Nichols case were members of the “elite” Scorpion Unit that new Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis created and unleashed in 2021 as homicides spiked in the city to 300.
She and other city officials turned a deaf ear to complaints about the unit’s harsh tactics while boasting of the felony and misdemeanor arrests the 40 hard-charging younger officers were generating. No one in authority cared who the unit tormented until Mr. Nichols died.
Memphis NAACP President Van D. Turner Jr. made an apt comment in the Nichols case: “We want crime addressed in our communities, but we don’t need to kill innocent people to do it.” Nor do we need police to create bogus charges to justify putting handcuffs on those who do not deserve it.
If police officers are serious about creating a trust bond with residents, then they need to be more involved in building relationships so people feel comfortable providing essential tips and information that ensure the right people are targeted.