For Police Officers, Now is not a Time for Silence

There have been a lot of words this weekend. There will be a lot of words tomorrow, and for the next few days we will listen to comments and statements about Tyre Nichols. Some of those statements will be sincere. Some might sound sincere but seem to miss the mark, and others will seem like the right words, but maybe the body language or tone of voice seems to convey otherwise.

Like any other death or tragedy, the words that follow in the next several days will be well crafted, strategic, and thought out. They will have a very specific purpose, and in some ways, rightfully so.

But make no mistake, the words that we hear and read over the next few days will do nothing to change what has happened over the last several decades. They will not change what has happened over the last couple of weeks.

Two years removed from the murder of George Floyd, and we find ourselves, yet again, at a breaking point. Where do we go from here? What is the answer? Is there an answer?

I returned from a Marine Corps deployment in the summer of 2020 to a world of policing that was absolutely upended by George Floyd’s murder. Because of that there were peaceful demonstrations, violent protests, and similar statements like what we’ve seen over the death of Tyre Nichols.

The difference this time, even though it may seem minor, is that the profession of policing appears to finally be collectively grasping the concept of swift transparency and decisive action when it comes to accountability.

Over the last two years I have proudly taught a bystandership/peer intervention program for law enforcement. I’ve been involved on a national level and in North Texas as we try and teach skills and methods to demand and encourage intervention for and by police officers, to avoid another murder like George Floyd’s.

Yet here we are again.

I cried as I watched those videos. I cried for Tyre and his family and friends. I cried because I felt betrayed by my peers. I cried for my friends and colleagues who are Black, knowing that the type of pain they feel is a very specific pain that I will never know. I also cried because no person should be beaten to death while in handcuffs or custody of police officers.

It wasn’t just tragic. It was brutally horrifying and inhumane on every level. I’m always cautious about what I say publicly. I believe that words are very powerful, but with every situation like this, words mean less and less.

Why? Because here we are again.

As police officers we can’t be silent. Silence is a precursor to acceptance, and I will never accept the kind of behavior and actions that were displayed in the killing of Tyre Nichols.

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