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Sad Lessons of Memphis

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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96 Comments
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The film does not lie. What happened to a young black man in Memphis, pulled over for reckless driving – an arrest with no evidence, pepper sprayed until he fled, run down, then brutally beaten by five black police officers – leading to his death – was an act of animal inhumanity. Anyone watching is left numb. The young man cries for his mother. How can this happen – in America?

That question is actually five or six questions, packaged as one. First, how do we begin to explain – which we must as a Nation – to ourselves, to the world, and to the family of the young man killed that we are not this kind of nation, not indifferent to this kind of brutality, but just the reverse?

How do we demonstrate that we are a nation that is compassionate, seeks not only justice retroactively for such animal inhumanity, but fairness and decency proactively, at home as abroad? How do we take acts of such unforgivable cruelty, undeniable facts before an unblinking camera, and make things right?

In tandem with that haunting question, is another. How do we convey to each other, black to black, white to black, white to white, black to white – that we understand this behavior to be intolerable, fundamentally un-American, anti-American, inhumane, unacceptable, and barbaric?

While barbarity by anyone motivated by racism is without justification, the specific acts in that film from Memphis were committed by those in uniform. Law enforcement is not systemically racist, but these acts committed by those in uniform disgrace a noble profession, one characterized by those who serve at enormous personal risk every day – who are by their very nature other-regarding, service oriented, and heroic.

How does this noble profession make sense of such an incident of barbarism, raw inhumanity, stunning abuse, a disgrace to the profession? How do other law enforcement officers convey that this is not they?

Deeper still, what does this tell us about how we are evolving as a society – forward or backward? Toward greater understanding, patience, decency, and resetting expectations higher and with empathy, striving to do better – or the reverse, giving up, allowing aggressive passions to control us?

In a more practical sense, what are we doing – and not doing – that allows such horrific acts? If the society is becoming more course, less self-aware, less idealistic, less honorable, less interested in accountability for those in authority – from law enforcement to politics – how do we reverse that?

Answers are not hard to find, just hard to implement. With a deep breath, let me speak them aloud.  Somewhere within that disbanded unit in Memphis, and in our larger society, we have allowed inhumanity to seed and grow, as if it did not matter, as if we do not matter to each other, as if evil is somehow permissible. Those officers did not check each other, stop each other, or understand the moral imperative.

As a society, we seem increasingly content to “look away” for personal, political, legal, racial, and ultimately immoral reasons – from the credo that we know we should abide. We know we are expected by an omniscient God, once loving parents, those who know us, and ourselves to do what is right. Yet many in society have allowed their conscience to be dulled, a thing that creeps until it explodes.

So, how do we get back to what is right? How does American society restore the understanding that we are a compassionate people, prevent this kind of inhumanity, speak openly to each other about restored understanding, affirm faith and trust in those who serve – especially law enforcement? How do we use this horrific film – hard to un-remember – to shape a better future?

The answer is we must universally condemn cruelty, let the legal process work, murder charges play out.  We must affirm who we are in how we personally treat others, speak with others, and make real the idea that this society is different, that we can cooperate on moral and trusting terms.

Finally, we must look closer to home, recruit with care those who lead and serve, including law enforcement. We must – contrary to what the senseless rioters believe in Atlanta – have facilities, curriculum, and seasoned leaders to train young law enforcement officers well. We must – every day – expect of ourselves and of those who serve us, the best they can deliver. 

Most importantly we must resoundingly admit it when we see it and can prove it in a court of law:  malpractice in law enforcement (just as we condemn bad surgeons or erratic school bus drivers) will have consequences, as no one in America is above the law, not even those who enforce the law.

If we do these things, we will restore trust in our leaders, law enforcement, and each other. We will reaffirm what this nation is premised on, honor, faith, and rule of law. Until then, we must wrestle with the facts as they confront us, especially in this case, have patience as the law works, honor each other with compassion. Bad things happen everywhere, even in America – and our aim must be to minimize, deter, and prevent them.  Sometimes you have to take stock of what is. The film does not lie. 

These are the sad lessons of Memphis.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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James Dowdell
James Dowdell
1 year ago

I believe the entire video evidence of this horrendous murder by police event should be required viewing by every current and future law enforcement officer in the United States. It should be part of initial orientation training and annual refresher training. Hopefully, the accused officers are convicted and sentenced to very long prison sentences. Those consequences can then be used in the recommended training to discourage other law enforcement personnel from engaging in similar behaviors.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

No society can survive without law and order We are living in times of lawlessness advocated by those who are supposed to promote order and safety Justice became the white supremacy issue As long as no one is held responsible for cowardly decisions and race continues to be exploited by those who live off it not much will change

Tammy
Tammy
1 year ago

This is all good and true, but the missing link is God, treating others the way you want others to treat you. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Serving one another. We have removed the moral compass of right and wrong from our lives and especially the training of our young people who have now become adults. We need a higher power, God, to help us learn love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control.
We must bring these things back into our lives and our worlds.

granky
granky
1 year ago

I was a LEO in a large city for 41 years, 1967 to 2008. Here is a truth that no one in government will admit or even discuss. We have been lowering standards for police departments in order to comply with federal affirmative action guidelines for the last 40 years, especially in large cities which rely heavily on federal grants. This applied not only to hiring but also to promotions within those departments. Lowering standards helps no one, it harms all of society.

Kyrazy
Kyrazy
1 year ago

You left out training our youth to respect themselves and law enforcement. The LEOs were wrong and they will be tried and punished. The entire incident could have been prevented if the criminal had been law abiding or if he had followed the instructions given by law enforcement. It’s tragic and terrible that a young man lost his life but ignoring his part in this is disingenuous.

Laura
Laura
1 year ago

I cried when I saw some of the video and as I read this article. But this type of thing is part of Bible prophecies being fulfilled. How can anyone continue to beat another human being while their victim is crying out for his mother!! I have no words.

Felix
Felix
1 year ago

What these five policemen did in Memphis is a perfect example of what happens when police are demonized, the dedicated good cops quit and the only candidates to replace them are not vetted, and hired, and not trained properly. So whatever good cops are left are even more demonized because of what just happened. What responsible person would want to be a cop under the policies and disrespect for law enforcement that these left-wing progressive cities have towards law enforcement. The candidates that apply now, and hired, would never pass the smell test and requirements that were in place before all the defund the police Black Lives Matter garbage after George Floyd. All these democratic run cities are just recruiting warm bodies to fill the quotas needed.

joe mchugh
joe mchugh
1 year ago

I totally reject the premise of this article authored by Robert B. Charles. That a group of police officers in Memphis, Tennessee deliberately beat a traffic violation suspect to death, has nothing to do with me.

Furthermore, I really don’t believe that the residents of Memphis applaud, or even condone such behavior of their police officers. If Mr. Charles wants to wallow in an exercise of collective guilt over that beating death of Tyre Nichols he is free to do so. However, if he thinks that I should engage in self-flagellation to atone for the activity of five Black police officers in Memphis, he has another think coming.

All of the police officers involved in that traffic stop outrage will face a jury of their peers. Most likely, all of them will be found guilty and be sentenced to jail time. Suffice to say that their confinement among other Blacks inmates will be somewhat unpleasant.

It is an act of naivete to expect that more diligent screening of applicants for law enforcement positions will eliminate instances of police brutality. While it may reduce such behavior it will still occur. For those who might keep track of such failures in judgement, I doubt that they will even notice a reduction in them. Each of these outrages will cause the same hue and cry for better protocol in hiring police recruits.

By the way, if the police ever have cause to stop you, I suggest that you be on your best behavior and treat the officer with all due respect during the interview. That way, both parties will have a good chance to avoid “escalation in physical activity”. Just saying.

NewDay
NewDay
1 year ago

We will not be able to curb violence as long as our society promotes it. Violence is found in our movies, in video games, in sports, etc. It is a big moeny maker. Only when violence goes over the top do we become concerned. Add to this you have broken homes, addictions, loose morals and disrepect for human life. Then we ask the dumb question, Why did this happen?

Michael J
Michael J
1 year ago

Tragedy all around, but 5 against 1 somehow begs more questions.

popseal
popseal
1 year ago

A complete lack of respect for authority is at the root of these violent police encounters. Respect the officers and little of consequence occurs. Resist and smart mouth to get thumped.

johnh
johnh
1 year ago

Trump said that this should not happen (Memphis) but I am still waiting for him to say that Jan 6th should not happen. Instead, he says that he might pardon people arrested & charged for Jan 6 attack on Capitol. The respect for authority must start with leadership from White House. I will not vote for a person that condones the Jan 6 attack on our Capitol.

koenigsking
koenigsking
1 year ago

Any info about the rap sheet the victim took to his grave? If you think that’s not relevant, you are whistling past the…well, you know

Nodrog
Nodrog
1 year ago

We will hear much about the victim, his family and upbringing, his hopes and dreams now gone.

What we NEED to hear about are the 5 black officers, their family and upbringing. Were they from stable, 2 parent homes with loving family life, challenging and encouraging school situations, and supportave extended families?

IF we hope to solve anything, we need to understand the officers background to get to the root of WHY they behaved the way they did. I don’t believe anyone in the media (except possibly you, Robert) would take on this assignment for fear of what you might find. Perhaps it would be positive, but likely broken homes, miserable education, and chaotic family life. I do hope I’m wrong about that.

Roy Anthony
Roy Anthony
1 year ago

Kudo’s to AMAC for giving a key element to the story. AMAC is the only news entity that I have seen that has stated that 5 BLACK police offers attacked and killed this poor african-american boy. All others I’ve heard/read simply state that a “black boy or black man” was killed by “police officers”. Due to unjust media, people immediately think he was killed by white officers. This in itself is enough to incite riots. Those who do not report as AMAC has appropriately done here, should be financially liable to the families of such victims. My heart goes out to this young man’s family. Our high school actually had a “journalism” class in its curriculum. A student could end up with an “F” grade for mis-reporting such as I’ve described herein.

George M
George M
1 year ago

If he would have pulled over and did everything the officers told him to do he would be alive today. If you feel your mistreated by an officer you can always go the next day to the police station and file a complaint to his/ her Supervisor. The worst that should EVER happen to you for being pulled over is a ticket, unless your license is suspended/or you don’t have one , which by law you’ll be arrested. Hands behind your back and a ride to the local police station.

Smike
Smike
1 year ago

It seems that most of these terrible situations occurring involve in some form of resisting arrest, running away, driving away or physically fighting with the arresting officers. I’m not saying what the officers did was right, but I can understand how these situations can get out of control. It’s easy to lay blame and condemn the overuse of force to restrain someone yelling, thrashing about, hitting you and trying to get away. We’re not robots, we react to the situation. That doesn’t make it right and you are responsible for your actions. How do we teach not to overreact in these types of events and still maintain law and order? All over the nation our police officers are dealing with the worst of humanity on a daily basis. There are a lot of bad people out there doing very bad things. Unfavorable data has been misused undermining the facts and discrediting the police. All parties need to be truthful and be accountable.

Owen Jones
Owen Jones
1 year ago

I watched all of the bodycam video that was published. It appears to me that the cops were within their rights until one cop decided to kick the man in the head. Then, no one restrained that cop, or seemed to think it was any big deal.

Kristin Shewfelt
Kristin Shewfelt
1 year ago

From my read, the author gets to the heart of something fundamental, that this is about us and the culture we live in and it must change. “We must affirm who we are in how we personally treat others, speak with others, and make real the idea that this society is different, that we can cooperate on moral and trusting terms.” The relentless onslaught of violence is numbing us all, at least it does me from time to time. We feel less outrage and more indifference. We need a national conversation on who we want to be as a society.

Charlotte
Charlotte
1 year ago

Would the man have been beaten to death had he complied with the officer’s request? Who made him run or become confrontational?

Neal M Christensen
Neal M Christensen
1 year ago

Since it was black officers beating a black man, a racial motivation will be hard to promote. I look for a movement to start similar to CRT that will theorize that all who aspire to law enforcement as a career are evil within and therefore, liable to commit such atrocities.

Rick
Rick
1 year ago

Go away, troll!

B W Krucke
B W Krucke
1 year ago

Why is there only talk of police reform and never any talk of crime reform. None of these over reactive incidents would have happened if crimes had not been committed in the first place. The solving of everything by violence is taught continually by Hollywood–that would be a good place to start reforming of bad behavior since schools and families don’t seem to be able to do it anymore. Show a few good examples for a change.

Leonard Tatko
Leonard Tatko
1 year ago

Nichols was stopped for reckless driving. He had to be pulled out of his car. He tried to run from police. None of this is shown. He resisted and was beaten.
This is part of the picture that is not shown to us.

Bob Chase
Bob Chase
1 year ago

“how do we begin to explain” “How do we demonstrate”
We ensure the judicial review and resulting justice is carried out. Why do we need to condemn ourselves for the actions of others. Wrong actions should result in consequences. Taking each incident involved a minority as an opportunity to beat up our society is just wrong.

Bob Chase
Bob Chase
1 year ago

What happened is a result of wrong thing individuals like you. An infection has set in as a result.

Kim
Kim
1 year ago

I watched the approximately 1/2-hour video. Of course, it was brutal and should never have happened. No one should die after being stopped for driving erratically. What I don’t understand is why the 5 or 10 officers standing there didn’t cuff the man, put him in a vehicle, and take him to the police station. Why wait so long?

Kirth Gersen
Kirth Gersen
1 year ago

That’s right, Mike. The 5 police officers are all black. The police chief of Memphis is black. Memphis is a majority black city. Memphis has had a Democratic mayor since 1968. So it’s definitely the fault of those evil white Republicans.

Paul Struble
Paul Struble
1 year ago

This sad but predictable tragedy is the natural response by police to their perceived betrayal by the judicial system. They made no effort to arrest their victim; they were sending a message to the hard cases in the community, by doing their policing behind the dumpsters. Since jail is no longer an option, they’re sending them to hospitals and cemeterys.

Jana
Jana
1 year ago

Very well said. Nothing to add here.

Terry Lanham
Terry Lanham
1 year ago

It is easy to stop law enforcement’s criminal behavior: Abolish Qualified Immunity. NOW. cato.org/qualified-immunity

Henry
Henry
1 year ago

I’m white. I was at the airport this morning waiting for the shuttle bus. There was a black woman going to work also waiting. I didn’t know her. I struck up a conversation and was nice to her as she was to me. We both found common ground. It’s not hard to do. It’s based on Love.

MarthaHud
MarthaHud
1 year ago

We need to pray about this country and come together as people not black, white, green, yellow. We are all of the same blood because of the Cross of Jesus. He died for us all so we need to get it right this time. I will join in any way to get this going. We are the vessels, use us LORD.

TammyB
TammyB
1 year ago

I’m pretty sure that city has been run by Democrats for many years.

James H
James H
1 year ago

Ecclesiastes 8:11 states ” When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.” (NLT). There are consequences to electing and tolerating lawless politicians and officials. As a nation, we must insist that we all do what is right based on the Constitution and laws of our land. You speak correctly when you say “no one is above the law.” There must be accountability for all, even those who hold the highest offices in this land!! This, coupled with treating everyone with dignity and respect, will reverse the senselessness we are seeing far too often.

DJ
DJ
1 year ago

When we loose respect for any life we are doomed for failure. When we loose respect for unity in diversity we are doomed for failure. When we loose respect for the freedoms that America was founded on we are doomed for failure. When we respect others and treat them as we desire to be treated, them we can come together and reason together to understand one another. Our government especially has failed Americans and the people weep because of their indifference and their lack of desire to serve the people, instead they serve themselves. God have mercy on us for we are a desperate people.

MJB
MJB
1 year ago

Candace Gonzalez is right! President Trump had absolutely nothing to do with this Police brutality in Memphis. Liberal media and and the leftist population of this country hate Trump so much that they want to blame him for everything from the US civil war to Putin’s poor military preparedness!
If you’ve never lived in Memphis or West Memphis then you can’t fully understand what law enforcement officials face on a daily basis!
I’m not defending the actions of these officers, But I am saying, don’t blame uninvolved people for the actions of others!

TCoale
TCoale
1 year ago

When you remove God from the public sector, it leaves a void in which ancient spirits move in. One of those spirits is Molech, the destroyer. The spirit of violence, death and destruction. Look no further if you don’t believe me, what is the majority of entertainment now? Graphic violence. Even children’s cartoons are now violent. The only thing that will stop this unholy trend in our country is mass revival. Otherwise, God will end Blessing America and our country will be just like the violence in the movies and TV. This is not hit more than spiritual warfare.

S. MAHANA
S. MAHANA
1 year ago

We’re even worse than that! How many innocent unborn babies have been murdered by torture (abortion)? Think about it!

Joe Bydone
Joe Bydone
1 year ago

First it was the democRATS call to defund the police, which resulted with any police within retirement age, leaving. Crime spikes, and citizens complain, then comes lax hiring practices and ” box checking” requirements……The video shows the results

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
1 year ago

This article provides many good ideas for having a true sense of hope — for a better future for the country. There are many things at the foundation of how to fix what needs to be fixed ,in order to have a society where compassion, fairness, decency are strengthened , and at the ready in times that require what could be called emergency action,such as a situation involving law enforcement.

You stated in the article ” We must affirm who we are in how we personally treat others ,speak with others, and make real the idea that this society is different, that we can cooperate on moral and trusting terms.” I like that sentiment, it is the at the foundation of good communication, which leads to better understanding. I would like to think that the Sermon on the Mount , what Christ taught , would be part of law enforcement training.
Respect for the idea of doing what is right, combined with a sense of purpose, and a code of conduct will help with making the needed improvements. The term ” Let Liberty be the watchword.” is good and I like ” Let Respect be the watchword.” as well.
Thanks for the very thoughtful, and Important article Robert B. Charles

Obraz Galeria Sztuki
7 months ago

Wow, this is a great website! The layout is user-friendly and visually appealing. I found your post really helpful, thank you for sharing such valuable information!”

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