Opinion: Justice for Tyre Nichols also requires systemic changes to our policing system


Credit: Openclipart/Hyperslower

Drawing of Tyre Nichols created after his death to pay tribute to his memory.

Josie Morrow, Views/Entertainment Section Editor

It is a cold evening in Memphis, Tennessee as protesters march along Interstate 55. The sorrow and grief flooding the crowd seemed far too familiar as, yet again, another innocent African American was beaten to death by police officers.
Tyre Nichols was a 29 year old that recently moved to Memphis directly before the Coronavirus pandemic. He worked for Fedex and loved photography, even signing up for classes that he would never get to attend.

On January 27, 2023, Nichols was only a few blocks away from his home on his way to take pictures of the sunset when he was pulled over on a routine traffic stop. The released body camera footage shows five cops batter and beat Nichols for almost an hour, during which you can repeatedly hear him calling for his mother.


Police killings per 1 million people in the U.S., 2013–2022 (Josie Morrow)

The injustice of what happened to Tyre Nichols is something that has become an all-too-common story in a country that is almost numb to having to see yet another video of a blameless man being killed at the hands of someone who is supposed to have their best interest in mind.
After the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, there has been little to no actual police reform done in the United States on any level.

Last year was the deadliest year on record for police shootings, and while there has been a rise in the number of police convicted of homicide or manslaughter, there is not enough data to consider the rise statistically significant.

The number of people killed in the United States by police.

While the perpetrators of Nichols’ beating are heinous and need to be put behind bars, we need to make sure that we do not separate the officers who murdered him from the system that produced them.
Meanwhile, the American people, as well as almost all of our federal government, are still adamantly opposed to changing fundamental things in our policing.
Piling money on the issue is not solving anything. ABC owned television stations determined the budgets of more than 100 cities and counties and found that 83% are spending at least 2% more on police in 2022 than in 2019. Yet still the rate of police killings or number of cops being held accountable for their actions had not changed – at all.

If we do not push our legislators to pass bills to hold police accountable, hold the Supreme Court to the fire to get rid of qualified immunity, distribute money away from police departments and towards preventative measures or abolish police unions, then we will never be able to solve the problem.
Taking these steps would not be “hating on police officers” but rather holding them to the same moral standard that we do every other American. Officers with the protections mentioned above are going to continue to get away with police brutality because they are above the law.
If we can actually make lasting change, we can make sure that the future Breonna Taylors of the world get to become nurses, the Elijah McClains can play their violin for cats at animal shelters, and the Tyre Nichols of the world can make it to the park to take pictures of the sunset.

Number of officers charged with murder or Manslaughter