Here we go again.
One more of many examples where police acted really badly, so much so five officers in the Memphis police department have been charged with second degree murder after they killed Tyre Nichols, a young man, for no reason at all.
None. Absolutely none.
Now, many people here in Salem, Oregon are going to think, "Thank heavens our police department isn't like that." They're wrong. Our police department is exactly like that.
Meaning, the Salem Police Department is like almost every large department in the country.
It's organized on a military-style basis. Officers in the department view themselves as protecting the city against "bad guys," rather than as public servants. Leaders of the department, including Chief Womack, are resistant to reforming the way things are done, such as by not having uniformed officers handle calls better served by a mental health specialist and medic.
So when I watched the videos of Nichols being beaten cruelly by five Memphis police officers, which led to his death in a hospital several days later, I was visualizing how easily this could happen anywhere, including Salem, because our country is so screwed-up when it comes to policing.
I saw five police officers taking turns punching and kicking and striking and pepper spraying Nichols even though he posed no threat to them. I saw the familiar sight of police officers all participating in an assault on a citizen whose car was pulled over for no discernible reason. I saw the officers joking around after the assault, ignoring Nichols, who they'd propped up against a car, all proud that one of them had held Nichols with his hands behind his back while another officer punched him in the head.
In short, what I saw was what I see every time I see a police officer: an average human being, many or most of whom have an above-average propensity for violence.
It's time to stop putting police on a pedestal. Bring them down to earth, where they belong.
Police are nothing special. They're normal people who get to carry a gun and enforce our laws. But when they act like jerks, they're worse than normal people, because five normal people don't beat up a young man until he dies from his injuries. It takes abnormally cruel people to do that, people who think they can get away with murder, literally, because they wear a police uniform.
What was released today by the Memphis Police Department were several videos of the Nichols assault. The body cam videos are confusing to watch. A video taken by a camera on a light pole provides the clearest, and most infuriating, view of the assault by the police officers. It can be viewed here.
If you don't want to watch the disturbing video, I completely understand. But I hope you will watch it. It's important to see how police officers act when they think they're above the law, because they are the law. Again, like jerks, strutting around like the cowards that they are, all proud that five large police officers were able to beat up a 140 pound young man.
A Black man. And the five police officers charged with his murder also are Black.
Which goes to show that while racism in police departments is a problem, an even bigger problem is the police culture that allows a group of officers to gang up on brutally beating a citizen without any officer raising an objection.
Nichols was pulled out of his car and thrown to the ground without any explanation. He was complying with police orders, but the asshole Memphis officers kept yelling conflicting demands at him. Like get on the ground when he was already on the ground, and show me your hands when they were holding his arms.
Understandably, Nichols took off running. Almost certainly he was afraid for his life, a totally valid fear, as it turns out. He was just a few hundred yards from his home. He wanted to run home to his mother. He yelled "Mother!" several times while the police were assaulting him.
A New York Times story describes what happened next. Again, infuriating.
Roughly eight minutes later, after a pursuit, officers locate Mr. Nichols in a suburban neighborhood, not far from his home, and tackle him to the ground. A severe beating ensues as Mr. Nichols cries out in pain and yells repeatedly for his mother. A body-worn camera and a surveillance camera capture police officers continuing their assault on Mr. Nichols, with one kicking him so hard in the face that the officer nearly falls down.
Throughout the beating, which lasts about three minutes, Mr. Nichols does not appear to ever strike back. Several times, he moves his hands to cover his face, seeming to cower from the officers’ blows.
As an officer hits him from behind with a baton, Mr. Nichols stands up and staggers while officers hang on to his arms. As two officers hold his arms behind his back, a third officer delivers a series of powerful punches. Finally, after that officer hits Mr. Nichols three times in the head while standing behind him, Mr. Nichols collapses to the ground.
Back at the scene of the traffic stop, body camera video from an officer who did not join the chase captures his reaction around the time that he learns that his colleagues have caught up with Mr. Nichols. “I hope they stomp his ass,” he says, twice.
By the end of the pummeling, Mr. Nichols is lying on his back, appearing dizzy. The officers drag him over to a police car and sit him up against it. The video images do not show him receiving any serious medical attention for several minutes.
Mr. Nichols, who worked at a FedEx facility and was the father of a 4-year-old boy, died in a hospital three days later.