During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden called for a focus on police reform as seven additional Memphis police employees fall under investigation for the death of Tyre Nichols.
Joseph Margulies, attorney and professor of government at Cornell University, says that while President Biden was right to call for police accountability, we all share responsibility for the police culture on display in the murder of Nichols.
Margulies says: “President Biden was right to call for police accountability, just as the City of Memphis is right to expand the circle of officers under investigation for the murder of Tyre Nichols. But everyone is kidding themselves if they think that pointing an accusing finger at particular officers will change the culture of policing on display in Memphis.
“Today, everyone is complaining about the SCORPION unit’s casual brutality. But for months, city elders praised the unit for bringing the crime rate down, and if it weren’t for the filmed murder of Nichols, not only would the unit still be operating, but it would also still be a prized position in the Department and leaders in other cities would point enviously at Memphis and ask, ‘how come we don’t have a SCORPION unit?’
“Though everyone today is quick to disavow it, the fact is that SCORPION was doing exactly what Memphis leaders inside and outside the Department wanted it to do. Unless we grapple with the full implications of this reality, meaningful change will be impossible.”
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