Police Misconduct

Mourners call for police reform at Tyre Nichols' funeral

Tyre Nichols' memorial brought a civil rights message and renewed calls to action against police killings of black people.

Mourners call for police reform at Tyre Nichols' funeral
Andrew Nelles / AP
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As mourners paid their respects to 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, there was a consistent message — something needs to change.  

"This is a continuous fight that we have to fight for. That's right. We have to fight for justice. We cannot continue to let these people brutalize our kids," said Rodney Wells, the stepfather of Tyre Nichols.  

Two years after millions took to the streets to protest the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and others — Black mourners gathered in another church to call for justice and an end to police brutality.    

"I promise you the only thing that's keeping me going is the fact that my son was sent here on an assignment from God," said RowVaughn Wells, the mother of Tyre Nichols.

The Memphis Police Department, like many departments across the country, underwent reform over the past two years, implementing "a duty to intervene,"de-escalation policies and a use of force continuum.  

It also hired its first Black woman to serve as police chief in 2021. And yet, the brutality has continued. 

"Yeah, I'm not surprised. Because representation doesn't equal structural change," said Dr. Charlene Sinclair, an activist and organizer with Race Forward.  

"It's 2020, George Floyd happened and it galvanized the world. But before that, it was Michael Brown. It was Philando Castile. So we have this — this historic arc of violence against our people and a society that really has come to accept Black death, as normal and not the exception," Sinclair said. 

Seven officers disciplined in Tyre Nichols' death
Seven officers disciplined in Tyre Nichols' death

Seven officers disciplined in Tyre Nichols' death

Inaction may not warrant criminal charges in all circumstances, but the Memphis Police manual calls for a 'duty to intervene' by officers.

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In attendance at Nichols' funeral were many parents who have also lost family to police violence — including the family of Eric GarnerBreonna Taylor and George Floyd.   

According to the Washington Post, Law enforcement killed more people in 2022 than they have in any year since the paper began keeping track seven years ago. 

Al Sharpton and Vice President Kamala Harris once again called for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to be passed.  

"We demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Joe Biden will sign it," Harris said.

"I don't know when, I don't know how, but we won't stop until we hold you accountable and change your system," Sharpton said. 

And while those in attendance called for changes in Washington — Sinclair says the answer is bigger than just policy. 

"You can't just go into a police office and say we’re going to hire more people — not if we have not changed the people that we bring in so they will see the people that they engage with, as their fellow humans in the process," she said.