Protesters gather against the fatal police shooting of Tear Nichols outside the Coleman A. Young Community Center in Detroit, Michigan on January 27, 2023 – The US city of Memphis released a graphic video from January 27, 2023, depicting the fatal police shooting on 29- year-old black man as cities across the country prepare for a night of protests against police brutality. Five Memphis police officers, also all black, have been charged with second-degree murder in the beating of Tier Nichols, who died in a hospital on Jan. 10, three days after he was pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKI/AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeff Kowalski | Afp | Getty Images
After Memphis authorities released graphic footage Friday of the death of Tear Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, at the hands of police, members of Congress said Sunday they must revive efforts to pass major police reforms.
The five police officers involved in the deadly encounter were charged with murder, kidnapping, assault and other charges on Thursday. All five officers were fired from the police department and the special police unit they were part of was disbanded on Saturday.
Talks on police reform failed in Congress in 2021 after lawmakers failed to reach a bipartisan deal. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Sunday that while passing those reforms would be “the right starting point,” it is ultimately “not enough.”
Durbin said that while he knows law enforcement officers risk their lives for Americans every day, many of those same officers engage in “horrible behavior” that needs to change for the better.
“What we saw on the streets of Memphis was just inhumane, horrible,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “I don’t know what caused this anger in these policemen that they would congratulate themselves for beating a man to death.” But it literally happened.”
Durbin added that he is not ruling out a federal investigation of the entire Memphis Police Department after Nichols’ death.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he believes that while there is reform that can happen, no amount of legislative power can explain the “evil” and “lack of respect for human life” he saw in the footage . He said he does not believe those five officers represent the majority of law enforcement.
“We’re going to look at what we think makes sense to help with that, to make sure they have the proper training, but no amount of training is going to change what we saw in this video,” Jordan said on “Meet the Press.” on NBC on Sunday.
Some police reforms were already in place in Memphis at the time of Nichols’ death, including requiring officers to de-escalate situations when they see others using excessive force. Ben Crump, the attorney representing Nichols’ family, said Sunday he believes police culture is to blame because it normalizes the use of extreme force.
“Just as much as these officers are responsible for the death of Tear Nichols, so is the implicitly biased police culture that exists in America,” Crump told ABC’s “This Week.”
Crump said he thinks that culture will only begin to change if federal police reforms are implemented. Without them, he said, “We’re going to continue to see these hashtags proliferate.”
While reforms and training can have an impact, another effective deterrent to this behavior is when officers across the country see what will happen to them if they engage in this type of violence, said Jason Armstrong, former police chief in Ferguson, Mo. . Armstrong led the Ferguson police force after it was rebuilt after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.
Armstrong said that since the five employees were fired and charged, officials see that this behavior will not be tolerated. He said that for some officers, it doesn’t matter if they wear body cameras or if there are witnesses, they will still resort to violence and that the culture is what needs to be eradicated.
“Unfortunately, violence is what comes naturally to these people in this case,” Armstrong told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “And that’s where we have to do a better job as law enforcement leaders is to identify these individuals that are in our organizations and our police departments and get them out of the profession before something like this happens.” “