By Rena Abdusalam
MEMPHIS, TN – Five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second degree murder and other indictments, including kidnapping, for their responsibility in the death of Black motorist, Tyre Nichols.
Prosecutors said Nichols sustained injuries during a violent encounter with the five police officers during a traffic stop. Three days after the confrontation, Nichols died while being hospitalized.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee have released statements in response.
“Tyre Nichols should be alive today. We join with the family, the Memphis community, and the nation in mourning Tyre Nichols’ senseless loss and demanding justice,” Kathy Sinback, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee.
Sinback added, “No one deserves the kind of abuse that Mr. Nichols suffered, yet such trauma falls disproportionately and repeatedly on communities of color.”
Sinback argued the “current system of policing does not value all lives equally,” and notes that Tennessee’s Black demographic makes up 17 percent of the state’s population, but more than 47 percent are killed by police.
“It’s past time to end the disparate, ineffective and violent policing of communities of color, and the constant surveillance, targeting and harassment of Black and Brown people. We must stop relying on police to respond to issues related to poverty and disinvestment, which leads to more frequent, unnecessary and aggressive actions by law enforcement toward community members,” Sinback said.
“It’s time for us to reimagine the role of police to be far narrower, while investing in supportive, community-based solutions for public safety independent of the criminal legal system,” added Sinback, promising the ACLU is committed to fighting for a new approach in policing and the criminal legal system, especially for the accountability of Nichols’ death.
The ACLU director cited the collection and reporting of data on traffic stops, reviewing policies, protocols, accusations against the SCORPION unit, and making reports on civilian complaints and law enforcement malfeasance transparent.
“Everyone deserves to live a life free from harmful policing and violence, regardless of where we live, how we look, or who we are. We will keep fighting for a Memphis that invests in non-punitive, non-carceral approaches to the community and centers the protection of Black lives, a Memphis where what happened to Tyre Nichols never happens again,” Sinback insists.
Yasmin Cader, deputy legal director and director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, said, “We express our profound grief for Tyre Nichols’ family and all those who love him. A man lost his life, a family lost a beloved son and father, and a community lost a friend to police violence.”
And, added Cader, “Yet again, we are witnessing a horrific abusive act committed by members of an institution that purports to act in our name and to keep us safe. The Black community again is faced with burying one of our own at the hands of police.”
She expressed for accountability and the continuance of fighting for a society in which police violence is infrequent.
“But none of this will bring Tyre Nichols back to his loved ones. Tyre Nichols’ killing underscores the urgent need to change the role and practices of police in our society. We must all work towards transformational change that centers care and safety – and that includes being safe from police violence. Through our grief, we will continue this struggle,” said Cader.