How do I even respond to the heinous act on police camera video footage released by the Memphis Police Department last night?
My heart breaks for Tyre Nichols, his family, and the Memphis community. As a career law enforcement leader, seeing the video hits on so many emotions – anger, disgust, and sorrow. It is appalling on multiple levels.
I joined law enforcement more than three decades ago with three guiding principles:
- do whatever I could to ensure the protection and preservation of lives;
- develop positive relationships between police officers and citizens built on trust and respect that allow us to co-create safe and healthy communities; and
- serve as an officer with integrity and courage.
What I saw in the Memphis video released last night is the antithesis to these principles and the oath to serve and protect taken by every police officer across the country.
The images of the former Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols are sickening and violate every tenet of human decency. It is critical that we condemn these actions in the strongest way and work collectively to take deliberate action when they happen. We must hold individuals accountable while also dedicating ourselves to prevention. Words cannot express the level of condemnation I have for these actions and the severe destruction it causes to the Nichols family, communities across our country, and the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who work hard daily to build connections and improve lives. We all lose in so many ways when incidents like this occur.
However, condemnation is not enough. We must be intentional in our actions, and never become complacent, to prevent these tragedies.
While this atrocity did not take place at our university, it is important to remind all who see this message of the Clemson University Police Department’s firm commitment to our campus community. We will continue our efforts to build strong and trusting relationships. CUPD will continue to provide extensive training relating to de-escalation, active bystandership for law enforcement, duty to intervene, and the inherent value of every life. Our officers engage in training simulations and practical exercises that build skills in these critical areas. We also provide clear behavioral expectations that include a moral and legal responsibility to intervene and stop illegal and harmful actions, and provide immediate medical attention when needed. All these elements support our commitment to a culture that balances the important values of public safety, justice, and mercy for all.
These terrible tragedies must stop. Let’s all put our energies together and seek out opportunities to make positive changes that impact us individually and as a community and that will help us navigate this tragedy.