One year after the LAPD viciously beat Rodney King, a study entitled Killed in the Line of Duty landed on the front page of the New York Times. The study, which was conducted by two FBI agents, one a former police lieutenant, the other a Catholic priest, was conducted based on interviews with 50 so-called cop killers and despite this fundamental flaw in its data collection it benefitted from the Department of Justice pushing it to police departments all over the country. In the study, police officers who showed weakness or an aversion to dominating and controlling alleged suspects were portrayed as easy targets. Even though the study has since fallen out of favor, the attitudes expressed in it still persist in the ways that police handle citizens, in particular, Black citizens.
On Jan. 7, during what should have been a routine traffic stop, Tyre Nichols felt the effects of such callous ideas that police officers hold. The officers escalated the situation at every turn, intent on getting Nichols to do what they wanted, and when he did or would not, they intended to dominate him into obeying their wills as rule of law. Unfortunately, this thread unites every instance of police brutality, or more plainly murder by the state as the killing of Nichols by the Memphis police department mirrors the treatment of George Floyd, as does the traffic stop of Sandra Bland by the Texas Highway Patrol that lead to her death, as does the murder of Philando Castile by the Minneapolis police department and there are so many other names that can be listed that lend credence to this suggestion.
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The video is so bad that even the police union isn’t trying to defend the officers, instead offering up a tepid statement that essentially says that the family and citizens in general deserve better than they got from these police officers. However, it also is not lost on anyone that these officers are Black, and there is no hiding the fact that plays a role in how quickly the department is moving against them. That being said, however, this is a clear example that you can’t representation your way out of participating in a system that demands that you treat Black people like dogs in order to be taken seriously. These officers all acted as though there was some sort of personal reason they needed to beat this sickly man into obedience, as though the streets belonged to them and anyone who resisted that authority deserved to be taught a lesson.
Three days after this beating, Tyre Nichols died in a hospital bed and the same mother that the officers mocked him for calling out for as they beat him mercilessly is now tasked with trying to bury the son that she raised, an unnatural position for any mother to be put in, but one that we have unfortunately had to witness time and time again as mothers have had to bury sons and daughters as they bury their hopes and dreams for their children’s futures with their bodies; an unnatural kind of pain, the kind that no mother, no parent should ever know or feel.
It tears at the soul, wounds the heart to have to watch very public displays of grief at trials which far too often fail to assign somebody’s baby the humanity they were born with. These situations are precisely why the calls to defund the police grow progressively louder, because police departments are increasingly militarized, they move against citizens with impunity and the aggressive mindset that it is either the citizen’s life or mine, as though the department is waging war against the populace, but in particular the Black populace.
I cannot take a President seriously, as every chance he gets, Joe Biden talks about the need to keep funding the police, well the police are overfunded, over equipped and when they commit these extrajudicial murders, the cities–rather the citizens they terrorize are left to eat the costs of their heartless approach to “crime fighting” and are left to wonder what’s to stop the next one from being in my backyard or your backyard. There is nothing to deter them because there is no real threat to their budgets or even their personal incomes because as we have seen, killer cops routinely get rehired by other departments while families are still grieving and picking up the shattered pieces of their hearts left in the wake of the police doing their “duty.”
Yes, it is true that Tyre deserved to be treated better and kinder by the police who ended up destroying his body and his life force–we also deserve to be treated better and kinder by our government, better than to be told that the instruments of our destruction need an endless supply of arms and armor and acquittals so they can do it all again in a few weeks time.
I am tired of watching Black people be sacrificed so that other people can repeat the lies of public safety, I am tired of watching people die as reforms fail them in real time, I am tired of watching families be destroyed and no one bothers with giving them the peace of mind that their brother, son, sister or daughter was valued enough to convict their badge wearing killers. I am tired of the cities where these murders happened giving families hush money just for this to happen to another family. I am so very tired of collective mourning and outrage on a loop. We all deserve better than this, and more than that, Tyre Nichols should still be alive. Tyre Nichols should still be alive. Tyre Nichols should still be alive.
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