Five Memphis Police Officers Charged With Murder, Treated Tyre Nichols Akin To “Human Piñata”, House Cleaning Needed In Memphis PD

Absolute and justified rage could be felt in the newspaper stories from the Memphis Commerical Appeal over the past two weeks as the details of events surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols were reported. Today a bombshell landed that would have made the UPI teletype machine back in my radio broadcasting days send bells sounding as news of the five police officers involved in the traffic stop that precipitated Tyre Nichols’ death were charged with second-degree murder. The young man died January 10th, three days after a traffic stop near his mother’s home and after what Memphis Police called a “confrontation.”

But those who have viewed the police cam footage have a different perspective than it being a mere “confrontation’. Lawyers describe the video, which the public at some point will see as an “unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating” for three minutes, saying Nichols was allegedly treated like a “human piñata” by the officers.

The swift moves by the district attorney and legal system underscore the gravity and overwhelming evidence that points to depravity among these five officers, but also a lack of professionalism within the ranks of the Memphis Police Department. There is no way that five officers out of the blue (no pun intended) act in such a fashion, and in unison without there being a rot in the entire system that requires a top to bottom wholesale cleaning. This type of behavior did not just occur due to the alignment of planets or the lack of enough strength in morning coffee. The top brass of the police department must be addressed as Memphis seeks not only justice for Nichols, but also a complete understanding of how this monstrous crime could have ever happened.

Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to preliminary findings of an autopsy commissioned by his family after being stopped by officers on suspicion of reckless driving. Reports in the Appeal stated police wrote initially that a “confrontation occurred” as the officers approached his vehicle and that Nichols ran away. There was then “another confrontation” as the officers arrested him. For a traffic stop. No one should be murdered for a traffic stop.

In addition to the horrific murder of Nichols, I wish to add how much this hurts and unfairly defames police officers around the nation. While most police officers are not of the stripe found in Memphis and pictured above, they will still be viewed in a light that undercuts their authority and required necessity in our society. That is another reason a complete and immediate evaluation be made of the practices of the Memphis Police Department. The nation needs to see a reckoning of justice in this case.

Madison City Council Correct Not To Ban Tear Gas

I was very much opposed to Madison Alderperson Juliana Bennett’s proposal to enact a ban on the Madison Police Department along with mutual aid agencies from using tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control within the city. It was a reckless and short-sighted proposal that was constructed with the aim to make for a progressive signature for an alder rather than concern about the greater needs of the city and the residents who reside here.

By the time of the city council meeting Tuesday night, a concerted effort was made to bridge a compromise so that law enforcement can still use those measures should they be required but mandates the city’s yet-to-be-hired first independent police monitor to do an after-action review of any use of tear gas. Police Chief Shon Barnes accepted the compromise and the matter passed the council 14-4.

Since I find the independent police monitor to be as needed as a third nipple I much agreed with the rationale of those who voted no on the after-action review. The Wisconsin State Journal reported “Alds. Barbara Harrington-McKinney, Charles Myadze, Sheri Carter and Tag Evers voted no. Those opposed said the police have been responsible in investigating tear gas use and that the reporting requirement was micromanaging or redundant because the independent monitor already has the capacity to do investigations.”

While police work to make sure protesters are safe when pressing their message, we should also want and expect law enforcement to be most determined to quell and stop the smashing of windows, the tearing down of statuary at the statehouse (!) and to stem the undermining of basic law and order. As such, I fully support the police using tactics that will meet the mission as needed. I wrote with much hope on August 28th on this blog that citizens should reach out and contact alders to demand a vote against the Bennett proposal. I know many people across this city did that very thing.

I am glad that pragmatism (for the most part) was the path chosen by the council on this matter. After all, the vast majority of those paying the taxes in our city have faith in the ones wearing blue and hired to do their professional jobs to keep us all safe.

D.C. Police Officer Correctly Exonerated For Stopping Ashli Babbitt Rampage

Some good news to pass along on this lazy Saturday. August weekends with humidity demand news that we can agree with.

The Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt outside a door of the U.S. Capitol has been formally exonerated after an internal investigation. We should all be able to take comfort in this outcome.

As a supporter of police and law enforcement, I grieved for the officer who had to take the ultimate action required to safeguard the place where members of Congress were hiding.

Babbitt was in front of a crowd of seditious rioters on January 6th, trying to get through a door leading to where members of Congress were being evacuated on the House side of the building. She should not have been trying to break down doors, bust glass, or undermine democracy.

Over many years, with numerous messages on social media, she placed herself squarely as an ardent supporter of Donald Trump and a follower and promoter of many well-known radical conservative activists as well as leaders of the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.

The violence of the rioters, which she promoted was, in the end, what took her life. I know I am supposed to feel empathy for her, but I can not. Given the gravity of her actions against the nation, our political institutions, and the conclusion of our process of free and fair elections, there is nothing one can feel but relief the insurrectionists failed in their efforts to damage our republic.

The Justice Department had announced in April that no charges were being brought against the officer. The exoneration by the Capitol Police wraps up the last remaining investigation into the incident.

As it should be.

Now It Is Brooklyn Center

If all the events that had come before in Minneapolis were part of a book plot an editor was reviewing for publication, it would be tossed aside if the following chapter contained the events which unfolded Sunday in Brooklyn Center. Simply put, the police shooting and death of a Black man mere miles from the trial of another officer for the killing of another Black man……well, it strains the credulity factor.

But, yes, sadly, and most unbelievably here we are again on a troubled road following the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

It will be a question today in places across the country if there will be protests in light of the news that has shaken the Minneapolis area. There could not have a more dreadful happening in an area already filled with raw tension due to the court proceedings for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who is standing trial in the death of George Floyd. The question many have is will there be marches and protests in other places to show solidarity with the community in Brooklyn Center?

I urge restraint and a laser-like focus on changing policies and create more community policing, which is used with success in so many places nationwide. That does not, however, undo the horrific situation that unfolded 24 hours ago. What news came from the police department today was just plain awful, and will not likely reduce tensions. Rather, I suspect, actually increase them.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters today that he suspects the officer who fatally shot Wright during a traffic stop Sunday might have done so by accident.

“It is my belief that the officer had their intention to deploy the Taser but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” adding that he believes this was an “accidental discharge.”

This does not send a message of confidence to the Black community as such a report from the police department only underscores the feeling of many that their lives are in danger from law enforcement. That is an untenable situation for a society that needs law and order but also confidence that those wearing the Blue uniform are professional in all regards.

The coming hours and days will be tense ones, for sure.

Kenosha Law Enforcement, Rubber Bullets, And A Photojournalist

The role of law enforcement in Kenosha, Wisconsin is rightfully getting some serious attention. Both the actions, and inactions, of local police and sheriff deputies as it relates to the entire Jacob Blake episode, protests which followed, and the treatment of journalists requires a needed spotlight over policy and procedure for these departments.

A freelance photojournalist for the New York Times was hit by a rubber bullet while covering the civil unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake. As a consequence, there has been filed a “notice of injury” claim with nine Wisconsin municipalities who provided law enforcement response during the protests. The reason this matter lands in a post is due to the troubling assertion that the shooting of the journalist was done intentionally.

If there is evidence to support such an action took place there must be far more than just financial compensation to Alyssa Schukar, the journalist who was shot in the hand while doing her job for the public. Should it be determined that such actions occurred by law enforcement then the removal by the firing of anyone who participated in such violation of the right of a journalist to do their job must follow.

In October David McCraw, deputy general counsel for the New York Times, let it be known to both the Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis and Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth that “a criminal investigation” should be opened. Schukar was hit in the left hand by a rubber bullet and has undergone two surgeries related to the injury and is still undergoing physical therapy.

But far more than just physical harm was done.

It is imperative that citizens have knowledge of how law enforcement goes about doing their job. When there is clear proof that a reporter is not a part of a protest and only doing the work of the Fourth Estate, but still comes under intentional fire from law enforcement then there is a legitimate threat to press freedoms. And it needs to be called out. The general counsel for the Times states “we are convinced that the shooting was intentional”.

There is no doubt that a journalist covering a protest is well aware of the unpredictability of an angry mob. Hostile environments are not new to these men and women. But in this nation, there should never be a need to wonder if law enforcement itself is dangerous when it comes to press freedoms. If Kenosha law enforcement was concerned about the public image captured in news photos during a protest I suggest they might have first considered the PR woes when shooting a Black man in the back seven times.

And so it goes.

Following Rules From Capitol Police Does Not Apply To GOP Christmas Tree

There are times when the rank-and-file citizen really desires to have elected officials explain why the rules do not apply equally in our state. What the majority of us are expected to abide by on a daily basis need not apply to members of the state legislature if they wish to disregard them. Such is the case today as reported by Scott Bauer for the Associated Press.

We are aware that due to the pandemic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers made the decision not to have the annual Christmas tree in the rotunda of the statehouse. First of all the building is closed to the public, and secondly, the tree, even if the building were open, would be a congregating point that would aid in the spread of the virus. But those facts were not going to deter a couple of Republicans.

Two Republican lawmakers put up a Christmas tree in the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda despite being told they weren’t allowed to do so.

What is disturbing is that State Representatives Paul Tittl and Shae Sortwell, both of whom most likely were very ‘law and order’ oriented during the just concluded fall campaign, disregarded the rules and decisions of none other than the chief of the Capitol Police. After Republicans have repeatedly, over the course of this year, stressed why it was important for citizens to respect police officers and follow their orders, we now see that discourse was not meant for everyone to heed.

Records show the two lawmakers applied for a permit on Dec. 1 to place what they described only as an “historical display” in the rotunda from Dec. 1 through Jan. 6. The application does not say that the display is a Christmas or holiday tree.

Dan Blackdeer, chief of the Capitol Police, an extension of the DOA, denied the request the next day. He wrote that although the DOA can issue permits for events and exhibits, only the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board can approve decorative items.

He went on to say that state law prohibits the DOA from permitting any exhibits on the rotunda’s ground floor. A permit request must be filed at least 72 hours in advance and the lawmakers’ sought to display an exhibit the same day they submitted the application, Blackdeer added. What’s more, the DOA is denying all permit requests for the interior of Capitol since the building is closed to the public, he wrote.

The lawmakers put up a tree in the rotunda anyway.

The message this sends to the state is some rules are not the foundations that everyone is expected to follow. We can apparently, based on the whims of the moment, act in any way we feel. I wonder if that outcome was what the Wisconsin Professional Police Association had in mind when making their endorsements for the election?

Meanwhile, if state legislators are paying only scant attention to the conversations of citizens the issue of a tree in the Capitol is not on the radar. Dealing with a pandemic that has filled hospitals with patients, pounded small businesses, impacted the bottom line of workers, and undermined the educational efforts in schools should be the focal point. It is too bad that since these elected representatives were in the rotunda, and so close to the assembly chamber, they did not more wisely use their time to work on the public health crisis.

Why Some Caucasians Struggle To Keep Perception Of White Superiority

The New Yorker has one of those must-reads as it places current white resentments and delusions during this time when much of the nation is fighting against police brutality.    This article places much of the current events into perspective.

To keep alive the perception of white superiority, these white Americans tuck their heads under cone-shaped hats and American flags and deny themselves the dignity of face-to-face confrontation, training their guns on the unarmed, the innocent, the scared, on subjects who are running away, exposing their unthreatening backs to bullets. Surely, shooting a fleeing man in the back hurts the presumption of white strength? The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

t may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause.

The comfort of being “naturally better than,” of not having to struggle or demand civil treatment, is hard to give up. The confidence that you will not be watched in a department store, that you are the preferred customer in high-end restaurants—these social inflections, belonging to whiteness, are greedily relished.

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

William Faulkner understood this better than almost any other American writer. In “Absalom, Absalom,” incest is less of a taboo for an upper-class Southern family than acknowledging the one drop of black blood that would clearly soil the family line. Rather than lose its “whiteness” (once again), the family chooses murder.

Wisconsin Legislature Must Act In Special Session On Police Shootings; Provide Younger Voters With Hope

Throughout Wisconsin, since Sunday afternoon when Jacob Blake was shot in Kenosha, there has been a high degree of emotion among state residents.  We have witnessed sadness, anger, simmering resentments, misunderstandings, along with an overall sense of utter frustration concerning another police shooting of a Black man.  We know how the coming days will play out.  More newspapers will editorialize about police reform, and talk radio will fill hours of on-air programming about this shooting.  But who we really need to hear from are the ones who make the laws under the statehouse dome. 

Governor Tony Evers has called lawmakers into a special session to take action on a package of bills aimed at reducing police brutality.   Not only are the pieces of legislation worthy of bi-partisan support, but I contend there is an added value to the session by underscoring a truth that too many young people fail to grasp. 

Some people have no faith in the political process and consider the releasing of rage in unacceptable ways as a means to some higher goal.  We have all watched news footage of fires, looting, and death and understand this will lead to no positive end.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of protestors over the past months have been peaceful.  It is for that younger generation that I argue showcasing the special session on police reforms as an avenue on how to create real progress within our political and legislative frameworks.  In so doing our state can take an important step forward by proving the merits of the governing process, and allow younger people to understand the role they play in a democracy.

The session’s aim is to ban police chokeholds and no-knock search warrants.  In addition, it would be more difficult for overly aggressive officers to move from one job to another.  These legislative bills have long been promoted by those advocating for needed police reforms.

A bold and dramatic legislative agenda on the front burner in the Madison Capitol would send a strong message to the peaceful protesters that their words and efforts were not in vain.  In addition, the message from the legislators in a true across-the-aisle fashion would be welcomed by a growing majority of state residents–both rural and urban.  After all, police reform is not only an urban issue.  The Marquette Law School Poll in June found strong support for more accountability for police misconduct.

Views of what to do about the police depend heavily on how the question is worded. “Calls to defund the police” are supported by 23 percent and opposed by 70 percent. In sharp contrast, when asked about “calls to restructure the role of the police and require greater accountability for police misconduct,” 81 percent support such changes, while 16 percent oppose this.

If Republicans and Democrats alike were willing to join in an effort in the special session it would send a clear message that the best way for change is not to start a fire or throw a brick.  It would demonstrate to a new generation of voters and engaged citizens that the legislative process is the best avenue to address wrongs and create changes.  We have an opportunity to prove that the legislative process can be what our civics lessons taught us in our youth.

This moment in time should not be wasted.