Rev. Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors
Rev. Michael C. R. Nabors (NAACP Evanston/North Shore Branch photo) Credit: NAACP Evanston/North Shore Branch

Editor’s note: On Friday Evanston Police Chief Schenita Stewart posted a letter reacting to the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five police officers. Below is the Rev. Michael C. R. Nabors response. Both have agreed to hold a town hall meeting to discuss the issues of police violence and community trust in the near future at a date yet to be determined.

A typical law enforcement oath includes the following: “On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.”

One hopes the words integrity, character and public trust capture our attention.

Tyre Nichols is dead at the age of 29. The national spotlight has been held up to show the circumstances of his death. However, there was no spotlight on the events of his life.

Once again, another Black body has been savagely and brutally beaten to a bloody pulp, at the hands of law enforcement.

The release of the video showing Tyre Nichols’ death demonstrates yet another inexplicable episode of explosive rage. What seems to be an all-too familiar sight, the nation and world witnessed kicks to the head and punches to the face and body of a slightly built, thin young man surrounded by five trained Memphis police officers.

Tyre Nichols, 29
Tyre Nichols Credit: M. J. Edwards Funeral Home

Not one of these police officers exhibited or displayed integrity, character or public trust in the death of Tyre Nichols. Equally appalling to the physical beating is the aftermath of the police officers and their wanton disregard for human life.

They ignored the cries and moans of a young man dying, just a few feet from where they were standing.

When others arrived from the sheriff’s department and EMS, they too ignored the same cries and moans emanating from Tyre Nichols, whose pain and internal organs probably made it impossible for him to use words.

Reports coming out of Memphis indicate that he was “a stone’s throw” from his mother’s house. Early on in the beating, he could be heard calling out for “Mom.”

It is important for us to understand that this is not a repeat of others being beaten to death as they called for their mothers. This is fresh and new. At the same time it is weary and old.

Imagine someone crying out for their mother while also suffering a physical beating. Imagine the sound of cries being drowned out by the thuds of kicks and punches. Then imagine the cavalier disregard of those beating the one crying out for his mother.

There was nothing ethical here and not one of the police officers held themselves or their colleagues accountable for their actions. How much more can we in America take, before we are fully cognizant that change must occur?

Sweeping reform must take place in law enforcement in the United States. In addition, the very judicial system and U.S. Supreme Court that have either been vocal supporters of the present system or have quietly acquiesced to this monstrous system, must also change how law enforcement views and treats people of color.

A structural re-adapting must begin if we are going to stop seeing videos and hearing reports of yet another Black or Brown body crushed under the blows of those who are sworn to protect.

Until we admit that our current system is broken, we will fail to begin the necessary, arduous task of either bringing it down and building a new one, or engaging in a wholesale restructuring and rebuilding project.

When a community has the courage to show and share compassion for all of its residents, when a municipality is as deeply concerned about the marginalized as the majority, when a town refuses to allow any of its residents to be treated differently, less or more dangerously than any other resident, then movement towards a more just society will occur.

While it is easy for us to blame the five Black officers for their horrible actions resulting in the death of Tyre Nichols (as well they should be blamed), it is much more difficult to do the right thing.

That is, we must investigate the system and structure that allowed these officers (and others) to go through a police academy, go to work every day, communicate with colleagues and their bosses regularly, without anyone putting them in check.

Such inhumanity that we witnessed from the video showing the death of Tyre Nichols does not just become injected into any person. There is a growth, a hardening of the heart, a stubborn myopic view of others, and a narcissistic belief that only “you” are right and everyone else is wrong.

Our nation is filled with such people. A long process creates human monsters. And only a powerful, concerted and overwhelming movement for justice can end this process.

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  1. “The process that creates human monsters.” This is a phrase that will stick with me for a long time.

    Rev. Nabors is right: people don’t become monsters overnight. It takes a lifetime to indoctrinate this kind of cruelty into someone. Traumatizing childhood and teenage experiences. Years of socially reinforced stereotyping, of idealizing violence, of viciousness justified or excused or covered up.

    People like this will always walk among us. But they should not be serving in law enforcement.

    Who trains police officers? How? Who evaluates recruits? Who is responsible for imposing moral and ethical discipline in departments? Are bad cops held accountable? How and by whom?

    That policing in America is a broken dysfunctional organism cannot possibly be in doubt. Leaders from all of our community institutions, from government to business to clergy to non-profits should come together and not just demand change, but come up with solutions that make change possible.

    Policing needs to be re-imagined from the ground up. Success breeds success. If one community does it right, others will follow. Let’s start here.

  2. I am in totally agreement with Pastor Nabors’s comments. There definitely has to be a drastic change in the Police Departments of every state, county, suburb, and country.

    The only way for this to occur, is for everyone of us individually and collectively to look at ourselves. As Michael Jackson states in his song “The Man in the Mirror”, the change must start first with “ME”. If I am not helping to solve the problem, then I become an agent of the problem.

    Every life in this world matters, and we must begin to treat each other with respect, decency, and ethically moral intentions. Hate must be turned into love, Racism must turn into acceptance of all cultures.

    When we begin to love others as we love ourselves, then and only then will this be a better world to live in. We need to stop the needless killings of our own “BLACK & BROWN” people. Black on Black killings are not acceptable as well. All those who participate in such killings need to be prosecuted to the fullness of the law, no matter who they are.

    We need to pray for the hearts of all to be transformed from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. We also need to stand up together against all injustice, in the higher courts of this country as well as the lower courts. Shout out together “JUSTICE AND EQUALITY FOR ALL”.