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‘It was murder’: Law enforcement officers react to police beating of Tire Nichols

Body camera footage capturing the fatal beating of Tire Nichols by Memphis, Tennessee police has continued to send shockwaves since his release on Friday, with law enforcement officers across the country calling him “reprehensible”, “murder” and a sign that a change is needed in the city.

“This incident was so beyond the bounds of an acceptable use of force that I wasn’t sure what I was looking at,” a police patrol officer, who said he was near, told HuffPost on condition of anonymity. seven years of experience. he was not authorized to speak publicly. “They knew what they were doing was unjustified. No one trains to deliver strikes like that anymore.

“You don’t have to be a trained cop to know that what the whole world has now seen is wrong,” said a Washington state sheriff’s deputy, who said he spent four years as a as a field training officer, also said on condition of anonymity. “I [think] …it was murder and I am disgusted and appalled by what I saw.

A photo of Tire Nichols, who was killed in a police traffic stop last month, is displayed during a church service in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

A total of three current law enforcement officers and one now retired told Huffpost that body camera footage showed no signs that proper procedures were followed by police involved in the incident. January 7.

Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn Davis, in a public statement before the footage was released, called the officers’ conduct during the traffic stop “not just a professional failure” but a “defect of ‘fundamental humanity’.

Five officers were fired on January 20 and later charged with second-degree murder, and an investigation is underway into the others involved.

“It is reprehensible. Nothing that happened in that situation is taught in an academy or a field training officer program,” said an Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy with nine years of experience. “There were several occasions to handcuff the victim. No opportunity was taken. »

“It is reprehensible. Nothing that happened in this situation is taught in any academy or field training officer program.

Officers who spoke to HuffPost said violent arrests like the one involving Nichols, who was unarmed, are unusual. They added that while the public has a right to be concerned about police brutality and excessive use of force, the overwhelming majority of daily incidents involving law enforcement officers result in no recourse to strength.

“I have never used significant physical force other than minimal physical contact, such as grabbing an arm, leading someone into a car, or applying handcuffs to a docile suspect,” the Washington congressman said of his own experience.

Each year, on average, more than 1,000 people are killed by police in the United States every year, according to an ongoing Washington Post analysis that began in 2015. The majority of those killed were believed to have been armed with a firearm. fire. Black people are disproportionately shot, with the Mapping Police Violence database finding they made up 26% of those killed in 2022, despite making up just 13% of the population.

A person speaks during a protest in New York's Washington Square Park on Saturday in response to Nichols' death.
A person speaks during a protest in New York’s Washington Square Park on Saturday in response to Nichols’ death.

“Yes, we have seen egregious examples of force being used against docile suspects, and that is absolutely unacceptable,” the Washington congressman said of high-profile incidents like the one involving Nichols, who was black. “But these examples are the exception rather than the norm when compared to policing in the United States”

“Always hold us accountable when we are wrong. But on the same page, help us be better,” the Oklahoma congressman said. “I do my job, and I do it well. And it pisses me off when a bunch of bullies across the country make it harder. It also bothers me that so much of the audience only sees a uniform and dehumanizes the person behind it. I am not Memphis PD. No cop I know defends what they did.

The three current officers who spoke to HuffPost said they had not personally witnessed excessive force being used by a law enforcement officer, and all three said they would intervene s they did. The Oklahoma sheriff’s deputy said they once stepped in when they saw a situation spiral out of control and “that person was fired quickly.”

Two of the current officers shared the concern that, in general, the training provided to police officers is insufficient, in part due to a lack of personnel and financial resources.

“The problem with the training overhaul is manpower and money,” the Washington congressman said. “They can’t afford to have cops off 25% of their time for a dedicated training day because it’s expensive to fill the patrol post with overtime and they often don’t have enough staff. to even consider it. It is an oxymoron to want to defund the police but also to ask for more training.

The Oklahoma congressman said he was concerned that the Memphis Police Department announced early last year that it was easing hiring requirements, including offering waivers for people with felony convictions. The department has also reduced the number of college credit hours needed, Fox13 Memphis reported.

“What I would personally like to see nationally are education requirements and higher salaries. This would allow agencies to be more demanding with applicants. Mandatory crisis intervention training can also help,“said the deputy.

Kirk Burkhalter, a New York Law School professor and former New York Police Department detective, agreed that higher pay was needed for officers, but said more training would not necessarily stop them. incidents of police brutality. Instead, he suggested that change should start from the top down, including how future agents are selected and how they are supervised after being hired.

‘We are always looking at the act… of the individual police officer and discussing his heinousness etc. and we don’t delve into the administration of the police department often enough. Who makes the rules? Who is responsible for monitoring? he told HuffPost. “From what we can see from [Memphis bodycam] video, you see no supervisor on the scene.

A supervisor’s job “is to prevent exactly what we’ve seen happen,” he continued. “Police work can be very emotional, and it’s the supervisor who’s supposed to be there to contain everyone.”

Burkhalter said the officers involved in the Nichols incident probably shouldn’t have been hired in the first place, believing the conduct shown in the video “isn’t something you can train.”

“What are you doing? Train someone and say, ‘Hey, by the way, we don’t kill people’?” he said. “It’s just basic humanity.”

Even if the inappropriate police conduct is attributed to a few bad apples, he said it raises some questions. “Who is the person inspecting the bag of apples? Who oversees the picking of these apples? ” he said.

Burkhalter — who served 20 years with the NYPD, following in his father’s footsteps — also pointed to a lack of quick medical response and a lack of bystander intervention for things that ended the way they did in Memphis. .

‘It’s rarely a single officer on the scene,’ he said of high-profile police killings, including the 2020 killing of George Floyd, which led to the firing and prosecution of four officers from Minneapolis. “There are a lot of officers there and somehow they are at least watching the interaction unfold.”

Even if a passing officer’s actions do not rise to the level of criminal offenses, Burkhalter said they should still be held accountable within their department for not intervening.

He recommended ongoing mental health checks for officers – not just when they are first hired – as well as a pay rise and at least two years of academic training for all new recruits. As to whether it is unaffordable, he suggested that it is worth it and that training resources could be provided by public institutions like universities. Developing a program like this is a personal “pipe dream,” he said, and a dream he hopes a smaller jurisdiction could undertake.

“It should be a competitive process. We should have people knocking on the door to serve their communities as police officers,” Burkhalter said. “It should be something that requires rigorous training, rigorous training and a long enough onboarding process to ensure it’s the right profession for each person.”

The Memphis Police Association, which represents more than 2,000 police officers and retirees, said in a statement shortly after Nichols’ video emerged that it was “committed to justice.” He did not outright condemn the actions of the officers.

The Huffington Gt

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