The shocking case of Tyre Nichols, who was beaten to death back in January by a Memphis police drug unit, has all but faded from the outrage headlines of the mainstream media. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old’s family, the narrative of the heinous events did not fit the media obsession with race, all five of his main assailants being black.
Two other white police officers were suspended following a more thorough investigation.
After a few weak attempts to blame white supremacy, the news cycle moved on. No national protests, no statues, no charity organizations earning billions of dollars from exploiting this particular case of police brutality.
The investigation, however, is ongoing. The five officers at the center of the case have been charged with murder and kidnapping, and now comes word the Justice Department will launch a review of the Memphis Police Department’s (MPD) “use of force, de-escalation strategies and specialized units.” The review is being launched at the request of the Memphis mayor and police chief.
The Justice Department will also be taking a look at the use of specialized units like the one that confronted Nichols. The hope is to provide guidelines for mayors and police chiefs across the country regarding their use.
The five officers charged with Nichols’ death were part of an elite drug squad known as the “Scorpion Unit.” The unit was designed to be a special intervention force for high-crime areas particularly inflicted by drug trafficking.
Such squads are formed to deal with crime control and prevention in sectors that sometimes require specified and physically elevated intervention. This can lead to some of these squads working alarmingly independently of regular oversight which may allow them to skirt the rules of enforcement and safety in their work.
An added layer to the chaos surrounding the Nichols beating is the severely lowered standards of MPD following the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality. Self-imposed racial quotas shrunk the pool of eligible candidates, which further shrunk the pool of qualified candidates. In an effort to hire more black officers, the department slashed education and experience requirements, shortened training times, and offered $15,000 signing bonuses.
At least one of the officers charged in the beating had previously been disciplined for the use of excessive force.
By all accounts, Nichols was simply driving home from work, and had not been in trouble with the law before. Details will begin to emerge publicly as the charged officers defend themselves in court, but for now, a Tennessee judge has ordered a block on the release of additional footage while the court determines whether or not the records could be prejudicial at trial.
While the selective outrage about this case may have faded from the eye lines of the Don Lemons of the world, the family of Tyre Nichols still awaits a satisfactory explanation as to why their son is dead from a sustained, brutal beating after a traffic stop.
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