Is There A Need for Broad Reforms of Policing in the US after Tyre Nichols Death?


Legal experts and civil rights advocates have said the harrowing video footage that showed a group of Memphis police officers delivering blow after blow to Tyre Nichols underscores the need for broad reforms of policing in the US.

Experts interviewed by the Guardian pointed out that body-worn and surveillance footage was integral in revealing what unfolded – but are not a panacea.

“At the end of the day, that final video shows someone being beaten and abused like he’s in a pinball game. It’s like the ball is just being knocked from one end to the other,” said Randolph McLaughlin, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law and co-chair of the Newman Ferrara civil rights practice.

“What’s most shocking about it all is the brutality and then at the end, the complete dehumanization of this man. He’s not even human to them – he’s not even a person,” McLaughlin said. “It’s as if they just went and played a baseball game and they talked about what happened afterward. There’s absolutely no excuse for this.”

Nichols, 29, was beaten by police after a traffic stop on 7 January and died three days later. Footage of the beating was released on Friday.

McLaughlin said that in many police shooting cases, officers will make the argument that it “is a rapidly evolving situation, a split-second decision had to be made, it was my life or his” but the Memphis officers could not make any such claim. “That man was defenseless. Defenseless.”

The actions of the officers, McLaughlin said, underscored the need for a far broader approach to reform. “This man wasn’t a criminal. He was just trying to get home to his mother. That’s all he was trying to do. If he can’t do that, none of us are safe,” McLaughlin said. “It shows we need a national standard.”

“The police chief in Memphis has taken a very aggressive stance. There’s no question that she’s taking this seriously,” McLaughlin said. “The problem is, what’s happening in Mississippi, what’s happening in New York City, every city, every state.”

“These are not crimes that are being committed in isolation,” McLaughlin also said. “Black and brown men, and poor people, are being treated in this fashion.”

The video provided shows a cohort of officers deliver numerous blows against Nichols, 29, as he languishes against the pavement, crying out for his mother. Nichols is punched, kicked, and struck with a baton.

When the officers who beat Nichols drag him to a police car, and prop him against the side, his grave physical condition deteriorates for more than 20 minutes before an ambulance arrives on scene. Nichols, the father of a four-year-old boy, died on 10 January.

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