Tyre Nichols Murder Serves as a Tragic Reminder that Police Reform is Needed


Ella Bisson, Staff Writer

   On January 7th, Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten by five Memphis Police officers during a traffic stop and sadly died as a result of his injuries three days later. This tragic story continues to uncover the underlying problem in our policing system that has been called out again and again: abuse of power.

   Instances of police brutality are not a new occurrence. When George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis over a counterfeit $20 bill, protests erupted all over the country in retaliation against such a disgusting abuse of power. Breonna Taylor was murdered by police officers in her own home while she was asleep when they forced entry into her apartment without a proper warrant. These are just a few of the countless murders carried out by police officers against black people. 

   The body cam footage of the traffic stop was released on January 27th and saying it was difficult to watch is an understatement. These five men acted so aggressively and in such an inhumane way, the Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis told Good Morning America that “in my 36 years, I don’t think I have ever been more horrified and disgusted, sad, and to some degree confused.” She went on to say in the interview that the station has not been able to verify the reckless driving that they claim prompted this stop. What is even more disturbing is that the original police report that was filled after the officers beat Tyre is missing key details that the video displayed. The five cops failed to mention how they kicked and punched Nichols and instead said that he was being violent.

   Many are surprised that these five police officers were black but it doesn’t matter if the police officers are black or white, many police systems in this country are deeply corrupt and a breeding ground for power trips. Studies have shown that force is used on black Americans at a much higher rate than white people. “Not only are traffic stops more frequent in predominantly Black and low-income areas but they also last longer and take place with a greater likelihood of removal from the vehicle, search, questioning, and arrest,” according to the group Human Rights Watch. While these officers were fired without paid leave and they are being charged with second degree murder, this is a rare occurrence of accountability. In most situations like these, the officers go on paid leave during an investigation and all too often are not held accountable. This shows a clear need for us as a country to rethink the way our policing system works. 

   Defunding the police is always a striking statement but this buzz statement doesn’t accurately describe what is being called for: changing the way the money is being spent. We need to use the money to invest in better deescalation training and more social workers to make nonviolent calls. But even more than this, we must on all levels of government commit to changing the way we deal with officer misconduct. We must make moves to develop ways to do external investigation on instances of police brutality as well as create a culture of peer accountability instead of fear of retaliation within every police station. One of the underlying problems in policing are the people the job attracts. If we raise the standards of accountability, we also need to also raise the pay so we can find those people who will work towards changing the system rather than contributing to it. We cannot keep letting every black individual who is killed by the police be another statistic; we need to make sure that the use of force is the last resort, not the first.