Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis can stand in front of cameras and talk about the inhumanity of the of the five police officers who beat Tyre Nichols to death a few days ago as if she has nothing to do with their dastardly behavior. But quite the contrary is true. She is complicit with their behavior because they should have been stopped before they had a chance to kill someone. And she was the one who could have stopped them. She did not!
Cornell McKinney reports that he was stopped by officers in that SCORPIAN Unit and accused of having drugs while the officers threatened to “blow his head off.” When they made this threat, they were holding a gun to his head. He made a complaint to the Memphis Police Department and never heard anything back from them. In addition to this report there are other citizens who complained about this unit and reported mistreatment that was ignored on this Chief’s watch. She missed her opportunity to be heroic. She should have stood against having such a unit in the first place.
It will take more than such police units to address the neighborhoods that are plagued by crime. They are the ones that generally have heavy population, poor housing, high rates of joblessness, no grocery stores, poor schools, high drop-out rates and the list could go on and on. Thus, it becomes imperative to name the entire situation instead of simply picking the one that best fits the narrative that supports the remedy that has been imagined. It is easy to blame a community for having all of the problems that it has when there are so many other factors that need to be included in the equation if there is anyone seriously interested in making the community a better place.
Of course, folks who live in neighborhoods that are suffering from criminal behavior want relief, but they do not want innocent young men beaten to death in their community. So as we work to hold the grief that is flowing through so many of us at the moment about the death of yet another young Black person at the hands of police, there is not any good reason to do anything but try to tell the best truth possible about what is really happening. The truth has a way of setting us free. And in this case, the truth is that while most thoughtful people are certainly interested in having healthy communities, there are many historical systemic reasons why there are marginalized communities of color in this country and when they become the focus of over policing, they will in fact look worse than any other place on the map. When the truth is that there are often many very negative things going on in communities where police presence is minimal and folks are able to mask their behavior in some way. A good example of this is human trafficking in upscale neighborhoods.
The other source of great sadness in this case relates to the time it took for Emergency Medical Services folks to offer assistance to Tyre. They stood around watching him suffer and did not do anything. These folks have taken an oath to work to save life and not to participate in taking someone’s life. What could have gotten into the three of them including one African American female to make them simply stand around and do nothing? They all stood in agreement that Tyre Nichols was not a worthy human being. He was nobody and I imagine they did not expect that he would die, because any thinking on their part should have led them to the conclusion that explaining their horrible behavior was not going to be easy. But he did die, and they have no explanations for their horrible, inhumane behavior. But there are explanations and all of us have to interrogate that territory both in regards to this situation and these folks as well as inside of ourselves.
This situation demands that we all take a deep look into our own hearts and pay attention to what we see and if we catch a glimpse of anything that is dark and that wants to be inhumane, lets seek all of the avenues that are possible to shift that energy. Then let’s work to reimagine policing as public safety and an America with fewer guns and much less violence.
Let’s Be A Half Shade Braver!