On the Sunday talking heads programs I’m hearing many, many opinions being expressed about the killing of Tyre Nichols. Some are true, some partly true, and some clearly false.
On ABC’s This Week attorney Ben Crump said something that was true: police culture was a contributing factor in the killing of Tyre Nichols. Then he said something partly true: that the race of the victim was a determining factor. I think that any individual who resists arrest is risking an extreme response by arresting officers. IMO that is particularly true in the case of black perpetrators but isn’t limit to them. Note that I’m not “blaming the victim”. I’m saying that certain actions foster certain responses.
My explanation for the reactions of the police and that of those arrested by the police is excessive fear. The police have excessive fear of black people who are resisting arrest and black people have excessive fear when apprehended by the police. The fear is not irrational but IMO any fear that leads to death is irrational. It’s at least counter-productive.
Then an individual whose name I didn’t catch came on touting federal-level police reform. I’m not sure that federal-level police reform will contribute materially to eliminating these situations because I don’t see it addressing either the police culture or excessive fear that were factors in their happening.
I do think that “qualified immunity” should be ended not just for police but for all government officials when what they are accused of doing is a violation of the law or policy.
The senior senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, then made a point that I think is nearly completely false and which I would characterize as the “bad apples” theory. If you just eliminate a few bad apples, it will solve the problem. I think the problem is much more inherent than that. You’ve got to look at the people who become law enforcement officers, their attitudes, why they become law enforcement officers in the first place, and what happens to them including but not limited to police training that impels them to act as they do. The sad fact is that any pullback in police activity hurts black people the most. While it may be possible to mitigate the risks I don’t believe they can be eliminated, especially by getting rid of a few “bad apples”. Or enacting federal laws.
During the round table discussion several points were made that I thought were good. The first is that “elite units” seem to be especially problematic in cultivating the notion that the police are entitled to do pretty much anything in pursuing their missions. John Kasich then made the valuable point that ongoing monitoring is a necessity. It’s not just “one and done”.