I am deeply disturbed by the actions of the five Memphis police officers in the murder of Tyre Nichols. Watching the video of the beating death of Mr. Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers was extremely difficult and brought me to tears. The actions taken by the involved officers were merciless, heinous, and incredibly disturbing and went against the basic law enforcement principle of preserving life. The lack of compassion, abuse of power, and use of excessive force were inhumane and inexcusable. I am glad to see swift action was taken, and the five police officers involved in the murder of Tyre Nichols and the two firemen who failed to render proper medical care to Mr. Nichols have been fired. I am also glad to see the five police officers charged with murder and other criminal charges.
We can no longer sit back and allow these incidents to happen. Real change must happen. The fact that both Mr. Nichols and the five officers involved were African-American was not lost on me. As your police chief, I am acknowledging the role traditional police culture plays in many of these horrific incidents. The fact that the officers who murdered Mr. Nichols were assigned to a unit called the “Scorpions” speaks volumes about the mission of the unit and the mentality of the officers in the unit.
Police culture, with an “us against them” mentality, must change. I am committed to changing this culture. This begins with hiring individuals who want to be police officers for the right reasons, providing ongoing training to officers, and holding officers accountable for their unjust actions. We must also train our officers to de-escalate situations with dialog, not force.
We regularly review our policies and procedures, but given this sobering moment, it requires our department to review and ensure our policies, practices, and oversight in our duty to protect our officers and the community from any circumstance even mildly akin to this type of tragedy. All Takoma Park officers have undergone Active Bystander for Law Enforcement Training (ABLE- https://www.law.georgetown.edu/cics/able/) and de-escalation training. We also have a duty to intervene policy requiring all officers to intervene when they observe misconduct by other officers.
I previously provided a message to the community overviewing our efforts to improve the police department in Takoma Park. A link to this message can be found here: https://takomaparkmd.gov/news/message-to-the-community-from-chief-devaul/.
We, as a community and a nation, must come together to address the issues facing the law enforcement profession. I and all of the members of the Takoma Park Police Department are committed to being part of the solution, not the problem. We are stronger together! We are always open to ideas and input on providing equal and equitable service to all our community members. Have suggestions? Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.