Police experts say Tire Nichols’ arrest was full of mistakes: NPR

People gather in New York’s Times Square on Friday to protest the fatal police assault on Tire Nichols earlier this month in Memphis, Tenn.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

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Police experts say Tire Nichols' arrest was full of mistakes: NPR

People gather in New York’s Times Square on Friday to protest the fatal police assault on Tire Nichols earlier this month in Memphis, Tenn.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

Many across the country were shocked by the recently released footage of Tire Nichols’ arrest. Among those most shocked are former police officers and criminal justice experts who say very few arrests have gone according to protocol.

“Every action here, from the very first interaction, really goes against how we expect officers, how we train officers to behave,” said Ian Adams, a professor in the Department of Criminology and Justice. penal from the University of South Carolina. .

“It’s hard to find a reason for what seems incredibly unreasonable,” Adams told NPR.

On January 7, Nichols, a 29-year-old black motorist, was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving in Memphis, Tennessee, and aggressively beaten by police. He died in hospital three days later.

Videos released Friday night by the city of Memphis showed officers dragged Nichols from his car the night of the traffic stop. They also shouted profanity throughout the confrontation. At one point, an officer attempted to deploy a Taser on Nichols and then began pursuing him on foot. “I’m just trying to get home,” Nichols could be heard saying on the videos. Officers repeatedly kicked, punched and used a baton to hit Nichols as he lay on the ground.

Five officers involved that night were fired, arrested and charged with murder. Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said the five officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to rescue.

The traffic stop was unusual

Philip Stinson, a professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, described the initial traffic stop as “highly unusual” for a variety of reasons.

“It was not a normal traffic stop,” he told NPR. “They weren’t in marked vehicles, they weren’t wearing normal police uniforms, and they pulled him out of the car, knocked him down, and pepper sprayed him.”

The officers involved were not on typical patrol duty. They were part of a specialized unit known as Street Crime Operations to Bring Peace to Our Neighborhoods, or SCORPION. The unit was launched in 2021 to reduce violent crime and the number of violent hotspots in the city.

Sue Rahr, the former sheriff of King County, Wash., who was part of President Barack Obama’s task force on 21st century policing, said specialized teams can develop an aggressive culture that sees their work as a kind of war where “everyone in the neighborhood” is the “enemy”.

Adams of the University of South Carolina also pointed out that the officers were unusually young and inexperienced to be part of a specialized unit.

The force used was unjustified

Police are generally trained to use reasonably necessary force to accomplish an arrest, but the officers involved went “far beyond that,” Stinson said.

“They didn’t really seem to have any interest in handcuffing him, they seemed to have an interest in beating him,” he said.

Officers are supposed to use the least amount of force necessary to bring someone into custody, but Stinson said the use of force quickly escalated into deadly territory.

“All blows to the head were the application of lethal force,” he said.

These extreme measures are only meant to be used when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they were immediately necessary to protect an officer or another person from the threat of death or serious bodily harm.

“That certainty wasn’t the situation here,” Stinson said. “He’s someone they could have taken into custody, handcuffed, very quickly if they had chosen to do so.”

Other police should have intervened

Stinson said officers have a legal and moral obligation to intervene if another officer uses excessive force. But in the videos, it appeared that there was very little intervention from surrounding law enforcement.

Shortly after the arrest videos were made public, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said two deputies who arrived at the scene were statement of duties pending an internal investigation.

Earlier this week, two Memphis Fire Department employees who were ‘involved in providing first aid to patients’ at Nichols were also ‘removed from duty’ pending an internal investigation, a doorman said. – speech of the department.

Stinson noted that officers have a duty to provide medical aid, but footage showed very little medical support from medical staff or officers. It took over 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

“There’s a lot of things that could have been done on a very basic level without any fancy equipment, but you didn’t see anyone trying to help him, trying to comfort him,” Stinson said. “Once in a while he would fall and they would support him.”

He described the lack of care as a “total and indifferent disregard for the value of human life”.

NPR’s Martin Kaste contributed reporting.


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