Considering the recent brutal murder of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, the release of the video, and the overwhelming acknowledgment that this was well beyond standard police procedure and training, showing a lack of pure humanity, I’m calling for state and district attorneys nationwide to ride with specialized units that enforce the law at the street level.
Several Memphis officers involved in this incident worked on mission-specific details or engaged in specialized units. So, as the months go on, I am sure reports will surface that these specialized units had prior complaints that went nowhere.
I am calling for expanding the prosecutor’s office and having attorneys ride with officers on these specialized tactical units, search warrant units and street crime suppression units to ensure they act within the law’s confines.
This comes as a problematic suggestion because, in the past, I was highly critical of prosecutors in general, and I still am on many issues. Nonetheless, I am calling for this at a national level.
It is, without a doubt, time for a radical change like this, and if you cannot see that after the George Floyd murder and this incident in Memphis, then you are not dealing with reality.
Also, while Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis did everything she could to get this situation into the public eye quickly and was open and transparent, there must be more decisive leadership.
Every responsible police executive knows that the tone and culture of the police department are set by the chief, superintendent, sheriff and command staff members. There is no doubt or debate in this situation. Every leadership training school, whether military, civilian, or otherwise, emphasizes that the chief leads the way. This incident is 100% a leadership failure, and she must go.
That video shows a complete disregard for human life. In some sequences, backup officers arrive and purposely turn their bodies away from the situation so the camera does not catch what is happening. They wanted to avoid getting involved.
Holding leadership accountable is the only way to ensure this never happens again. The officers were terminated and criminally charged; the chief must be held to the same standard and replaced.
An ivory tower chief is no longer acceptable. The police chief or police executive needs to be hands on, attend roll calls and mentor their officers. They need to demonstrate day-to-day how the department should respond to situations compassionately.
The chief, director, sheriff, or superintendent can let other command-level people run daily administrative tasks in police headquarters. Police leaders must spend time with their officers, or these situations will recur.
Thomas Weitzel served as a Riverside police officer for 37 years and chief from 2008 until his retirement in 2021.