Policing in America is broken. That’s a sentence I have written before, and will undoubtedly write again. Militarization of civilian police, moving away from foot patrols to car patrols, the “war” on drugs…all of it, and more, has conspired to convert community police into paramilitary squads whose enemies are all too often the people they were intended to protect.
Everyone who has had any contact with police has seen the aggressive postures, the combative attitudes, the insane insistence on respecting their authority that many police in America display every day. Contact with the police used to be trivial. Oops…parking ticket. Damn! Speeding ticket. Loud music a bit too late? Sure. No problem. I’ll turn it down. The cops weren’t the enemy and we weren’t either.
But now? All too often, contact with the police is fraught with tension, because we cannot know whether the policeman who has pulled us over is a normal man, just doing his job, or a bulked up wannabe special forces operator with a chip on his shoulder and an exaggerated sense of his own importance.
Or in the case of Tyre Nichols: five of them.
Nichols, 29, was stopped by police on Jan. 7 for alleged “reckless driving.” Officers said a “confrontation occurred” during the traffic stop, leading to Nichols’ attempt to flee. Officers eventually caught up with him by car, exited their vehicles and began to beat him, leaving him complaining about having shortness of breath. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition and died on Jan. 10. The Shelby County Medical Examiner’s Office has not released Nichols’ cause of death.
I don’t give a rat’s ass what kind of a person Tyre Nichols was. He might very well have been a thug. He might very well have been driving recklessly. He might very well have mouthed off to the cops. He certainly tried to run away from them.
Yes, that’s stupid. But it doesn’t require that he be beaten to death. The police are not the proverbial judge, jury and executioners.
Here’s a link to the City of Memphis Vimeo page if you want to watch the videos. They are brutal.
What stands out, aside from the casual brutality, is that these men were lousy cops. They clearly did not know how to do their jobs. Or maybe they simply didn’t understand what their jobs were! Or even worse…their level of violence was accepted by their bosses, was accepted by their fellow policemen, and was part of the ethos of policing.
Those five cops were black, which is unsurprising because Memphis is about 2/3 black. Was their beating of Nichols precipitated by his color? Or was it precipitated by the complete disconnect between the police and the communities they are charged with protecting? What is most frustrating is that had those five cops been white, Nichols probably would have survived the encounter because of the insane calculations that are necessary in today’s racially charged environment.
But…and this is the point of this post…while I am a critic of policing in America, until the push-back against it is non-violent, I will continue to support the police. Protest all you want. But the second your protest turns violent you will lose me, and my support for the police will reset to a reflexive: “sorry, but you were rioting…you got what you deserved.”
BLM and Antifa and the various other communist-inspired groups will continue to foment violence instead of peaceful protest, and that will be the reason that a comprehensive examination and overhaul of American policing will not occur.