The horrific beating on January 7 of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man, and his subsequent death at the hands of five black Memphis Police Department (MPD) officers was inexcusable.
The five black officers have been fired and indicted for murder. A sixth officer, who is white and was not present at the scene of the beating, has been fired for other violations during the initial confrontation with Nichols after the traffic stop. All six were members of MPD’s SCORPION Unit (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods), a special enforcement unit established in 2021 by MPD Chief Cerelyn Davis.
“White Supremacist Black Cops”—The Left’s New Con
Professional race hustlers, including CNN’s Van Jones, are whipping up the hate. Despite the fact that Nichols’ death came at the hands of five black Memphis policemen, Jones blamed “white supremacy” as the culprit.
His con goes like this. The so-called white supremacy of America and the Memphis Police Department was “internalized” by these black cops, who then projected onto Tyre Nichols. Because as Van Jones schools us, “Self-hatred is a real thing.” So don’t believe what you think you see on the video—those cops aren’t blacks acting as blacks—they are blacks acting as whites.
Trying to make the Memphis Police Department out to be a vessel for white supremacy is absurd.
MPD is almost 60 percent black in a city that is 65 percent black, its last three chiefs have been black, six of the nine-member executive command staff are black, six of nine station commanders are black, and it has instituted a “Reimagine Policing in Memphis” policy which had already prohibited the misconduct the five black officers committed.
Van Jones’ white supremacy con attempts to misdirect scrutiny from the real problem.
American Policing Is Broken. But It Didn’t Happen Overnight.
The Memphis Police Department is in chaos. Since 2011 the number of officers has dropped by almost a quarter. MPD is 500 officers short and crime is out of control. While extreme, MPD’s breakdown is only part of the pattern of the Left’s subversion of the police.
To put the crisis in context, here’s a brief review of how we got here.
- Beginning with Barack Obama’s anti-police presidency and his bogus claims of systemic police racism, Democrats and ruling-elite media have been demonizing the police.
- Joe Biden’s Administration has been even more anti-police—incessantly repeating the Big Lie of systemic police racism.
- The Black Lives Matter (BLM) race-riots of 2020 wrecked American policing. Democrat mayors and their police chiefs allowed cities to burn—breaking the trust of the public in the police.
- The Big Lie of systemic police racism propelled BLM’s Defund the Police movement and justified eliminating cash bail and laws virtually legalizing theft.
- Funded by leftist billionaire George Soros, Democrats have undermined the rule of law in more than 75 jurisdictions through an organized takeover of states’ attorneys offices. These pro-criminal radicals have subverted the system from within.
- Demonizing the police as racists escalated the war on cops. In 2022, 331 police officers were shot. Sixty-two police officers were shot and killed—a 32 percent increase from 2020. There were 89 ambush attacks on police.
- Unsupported by Democrat politicians, facing hostile communities, and sabotaged by subversive prosecutors—cops pulled back from proactive policing. This resulted in increased violent crime, devastating urban black communities with the highest homicide increases ever recorded.
Fewer Cops Means More Crime
As police departments empty, Democrat mayors are in a bind. To appease their radical voter base, they were on-board with BLM’s police-hating agenda. But now with police ranks decimated, they are confronted with the truth—fewer cops means more crime. Average voters are angry and panicked Democrats are scrambling to refill the ranks. The knee-jerk reaction has been to lower hiring standards.
Recruiting police candidates who, until only recently, would have been rejected as unqualified is now common. Memphis is a leader in this dangerous and foolish policy.
Let us take a close look at the entire MPD disaster starting with the January 7 traffic stop of Tyre Nichols. There were two separate encounters after the stop. Each provides insights into the pathology of the Memphis Police Department.
Encounter #1. An Absence Of Training and Failure Of Leadership.
The first encounter occurred immediately after the traffic stop. Nichols is pulled out of the car and wrestled to the ground. He actively resists being handcuffed. An officer pepper sprays him in the face with no result. Nichols gets to his feet and runs. An officer unsuccessfully discharges his taser at him. Nichols escapes.
As a demonstration of police procedure and tactics, this is the most incompetent I’ve seen. The officers’ approach to the driver was unsafe, unsound, and unprofessional. Their attempts to gain physical control and apply emergency handcuffing techniques to a resisting subject were inept. Taser procedure was improper. The proper issuance of verbal commands and communication were nonexistent.
This initial fiasco demonstrates the utter failure of the Memphis Police Department to properly train its officers. Effective performance of defensive tactics, physical control, and emergency handcuffing techniques requires regular, realistic, hands-on, and scenario-based training. But you can bet that these officers hadn’t received hands-on instruction and practice since they were recruits in the training academy. For officers in a special unit focused on interdicting street crime, training should have been a top priority.
This is an epic failure and responsibility goes to the very top of MPD. Contrary to Chief Cerelyn Davis’ claim that these officers “were given exceptional training . . . ” videos document the complete opposite. The truth is, if these officers had been exceptionally trained and competent in these skills, they could have used appropriate force to quickly place Tyre Nichols under control without injury to him or themselves.
Encounter #2. Psychopathic Thugs Who Never Should Have Been Cops In The First Place
The second encounter reveals a much different problem. The punches, kicks to the head, and baton strikes directed at a subject who posed no threat were beyond shocking. In my experience, this didn’t look like a police arrest—it looked like a gang beatdown. No amount of training can ever fix this problem because these aren’t good cops who made a bad decision. These are psychopathic thugs who never should have been cops in the first place.
So why did MPD hire them?
The vast majority of the cops who are bailing out of law enforcement now decided to become police for the right reasons. To help people, serve their communities, and make a difference. They are leaving because leftist policies and leadership now make it impossible to do those things. Like-minded young people who ordinarily would be signing up see the toxic environment and want no part of it.
Many remaining in the applicant pool are second-rate but departments have lowered standards to hire them. What used to be red flags blocking employment—past illegal drug use, failed personal finances, poor work record, character flaws, and criminal histories—are now ignored or simply thrown out the window.
MPD’s lowered standards include the elimination of physical testing. Even a basic level of physical fitness is no longer required of recruits. MPD’s physical ability “test”—it is not even pass or fail but merely an “assessment.”
The Memphis Police Department has ignored many applicants’ criminal histories including seeking waivers for felony convictions. Officers with gang affiliations are now almost certainly in their ranks. To entice applicants, Memphis offers $15,000 hiring bonuses and $10,000 relocation bonuses.
When conscientious recruiters tried to prevent applicants from slipping through after background checks revealed disqualifying red flags—they were ignored.
Alvin Davis, a former police lieutenant in charge of MPD recruiting, was so disgusted that he retired early. Davis told the AP, “They would allow just pretty much anybody to be a police officer because they just want these numbers.” Knowing that hiring unqualified applicants was an accident waiting to happen, Davis warned “They don’t even know right from wrong yet . . . They’re not ready for it.”
Valuing Diversity Over Competency and Character
The community policing principle “police should reflect the community” is a very important goal that we should always strive for. But in making “hiring for diversity” their primary goal, many big-city departments have dropped the already diminished minimum standards bar even lower to hire black officers.
But as Tyre Nichols’ death demonstrates, achieving racial diversity at the cost of abandoning competency and character is a recipe for disaster.
Regardless of race or gender, selecting a police chief solely on the basis of ability and merit is essential for building a strong, effective, and legitimate police department. Department and community members must know that their chief was the best candidate for the job and selected through a non-biased, meritocratic process. Trust, confidence, loyalty, and morale depend upon it.
On the other hand, the ultimate mistake is picking a chief through patronage or on the basis of skin color or gender. A chief selected through a biased process lacks legitimacy and the corruption of unfairness will undermine every level of the organization. When Cerelyn Davis was hired as MPD chief in 2021, she was celebrated as Memphis’ “first black female chief.” Claiming that she was the most qualified for the job would have been a stretch. As commander of internal affairs in the Atlanta Police Department, Davis had been fired for shielding a child pornographer from prosecution.
Her previous record as a crime fighter wasn’t a highlight reel either. While chief of police in Durham, North Carolina violent crime spun out-of-control. During her next to last year as chief, shootings spiked 70 percent. In her final year, Durham saw the most homicides in its history.
The Left’s Bigotry Of Low Expectations
There is racism afoot here, but its origin is the exact opposite from Van Jones’ conspiracy theory. The racism at the root of this tragedy is the Left’s bigotry of low expectations for blacks. Woke Democrats are afraid to tell a failed black police applicant to go back and study longer, work harder, fix their credit, etc.—and take the test again. They are afraid to say “if you really want to be a police officer, keep working to achieve your goal—because being a cop is special.” They are afraid to reject black police chief candidates and tell them their work history or prior performance is sub-standard and they need to self-improve.
Why the fear to tell the truth? Because the Left has labeled the very concepts and values of hard work, striving for excellence, and perseverance examples of “whiteness.” To demand that blacks follow these basic steps to success would be racist according to them.
As a leader in policing for almost 30 years, I know the excellence that police officers of all races can and do achieve. But leftists are hiding a dirty little secret. The truth is, leftists don’t have the same expectations of blacks because deep down, they believe blacks are inferior.
When a police chief is not hired for competence, that chief probably won’t be fired for incompetence. Playing the diversity game ensures no accountability on either end. So even though the Tyre Nichols catastrophe resulted from her policies, Chief Cerelyn Davis isn’t going anywhere. She will never be fired by a liberal Democrat white male mayor who, more than anything, fears being called racist. But real accountability would demand otherwise.
Why The SCORPION Unit Failed
The special unit Chief Davis created was defective from the start. But until it blew up on the night of January 7, both Davis and Mayor Jim Strickland praised her initiative as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The SCORPION Unit’s mission was to proactively engage violent offenders in high-crime areas. Properly staffing this type of special unit is critically important. Officers must be veterans who have demonstrated professional excellence, maturity, good judgment, integrity, and communication skills. These abilities are learned through the experience of working extensively as a beat officer on patrol.
Cerelyn Davis did the opposite. She assigned unqualified officers to this unit who didn’t know the first thing about basic policing. Two of the indicted officers had only two years on the job, and had never worked a beat car. Davis failed to properly train her officers. Proficiency in hands-on defensive tactics and communication skills were essential—but non-existent. Most shockingly, Chief Davis failed to ensure proper supervision. This is Police Management 101. Far more than patrol, special units require close oversight and hands-on supervisors who lead by example. The SCORPION Unit had neither. It is appalling that not one police supervisor responded to the scene during the entire Tyre Nichols incident.
Davis’ neglect of supervision emboldened these five officers and fostered an undisciplined, toxic culture. Viewing the gross violations on January 7, it is clear that this wasn’t the first time that they had crossed the line. Proper supervision would have monitored, corrected—and if warranted—disciplined and removed them from the unit earlier.
Fixing the Mess
The destruction of the Memphis Police Department is tragic. Sadly, it is not unique. Many police departments in Democrat-run cities are on the same path to failure. Obliterating standards, valuing diversity over competency in hiring, and abandoning the meritocratic process in promoting supervisors and selecting chiefs is a national trend. Memphis just got there first—and it cost Tyre Nichols his life. Similar disasters will follow.
There is only one way to fix this mess.
Every one of these leftist-inspired policies needs to be stopped completely. Of course, in Left-dominated cities and police departments, that’s not happening anytime soon. Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. But until we put an end to this insanity, more unqualified people will be hired to masquerade as the police, the real police will continue to bail out in record numbers, and more crime will consume our cities.