The Murder of Tyre Nichols, and Belated Solutions that wouldn’t have Prevented it
We’ve had, these recent weeks, yet another opportunity to listen to people pretending to be surprised, or create excuses and justifications, or act as though the problem has already been solved, after yet another Black person was publicly murdered by police. Tyre Nichols was beaten so severely that he died in a hospital after suffering for three days in critical collection, meaning effectively that he was beaten to death. The incident was horrific and disgusting and only a small handful of the world’s most despicable sadists would dispute that.
While the majority of people are in agreement on this case, that everything about it was wrong and cruel and criminal, much of the response has been poor, insufficient, and sometimes stupid.
The unit to which Nichols’ murderers belonged was disbanded. That is pretty much the only thing that could be done with them, but the unit should never have been formed in the first place. Police task forces like the “SCORPION unit” should not exist. First of all, “SCORPION unit”?? Why would you name anything that’s purportedly supposed to have a positive connotation after a predatory, often poisonous, arachnid that most people will never have an interaction with and which is hated by those that do. Great name for a police unit: the ugly killer bugs that people despise and fear. The SCORPIONS can’t sound like anything but a gang name (or a band) and a pretty corny one at that. And you know those dipshits in the unit referred to themselves as the SCORPIONs. Second, these special anti-crime Shield-wannabe police units, which operate with relative independence, are murderous disasters waiting to happen. Gather the most violence-prone cops into “elite” teams and tell them that they’re going to be dealing with the most hardcore crime, then set them loose in neighborhoods, and it’s a surprise that they brutalize and kill people?
The police who murdered Nichols were fired, arrested, and charged for their crimes, which, again, is pretty much the only thing that could be done with them at that point. Of course, it has been pointed out that the five officers charged are all young black men, not dissimilar from Nichols, or many of the other people arrested and charged with crimes in America. Not that they shouldn’t be criminally charged, but it is worth noting how quickly and willingly their department gave them up, compared to white cops guilty of the same or similar crimes. It is a positive that criminal cops are punished. But, it’s not enough. It’s not enough to get rid of these assholes after they kill someone. If we rely on that system, someone will have to die every time to weed them out, an innocent life sacrificed in trade to get rid of each and every abusive, murdering asshole. People shouldn’t have to continue being brutalized and dying as a check on police officers’ employment.
The fact that Nichols’ murderers are Black has been latched onto by mainstream racists, who claim either that it is evidence that systemic racism is not a problem among police because Black cops harm and kill Black people too, or that these cops’ blackness somehow made them bad cops, that white cops wouldn’t behave as they did. The latter claim is too patently stupid and disproved by oceans of contrary evidence to bother arguing. The former claim is also stupid, but more than that it’s a wilful misunderstanding of the issue. The problem is not simply that white cops are racist and violent; it’s that policing encourages racism and violence; it’s that people of color are disproportionately targeted, harmed, and killed by police, of any color. And to those who argue that more white people are killed by police than any other racial group, that is because there are more white people than any other racial group in this country, and they shouldn’t be getting murdered by police either.
Despite some efforts at reforming US policing, Nichols is dead. Though governments and departments pass laws and make rules, people continue to die, because reform doesn’t work. Reform of the police system is not, has not, and will never be enough. The problems of policing cannot be fixed. Policing is a systemically corrupt and fascistic institution. However the conservatives, elites, naysayers, and pearl-clutchers profess the necessity of police, the police system does not keep people safe, and abolition is necessary. The criminal system needs to be dismantled and replaced with something better, that actually keeps people safe, that doesn’t murder innocent people.