The Mayor’s Commission on African American Males wishes to express our deepest sorrow, anger and frustration regarding the beating and murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers.
As an advisory commission to the Mayor, City Council, and agencies of the City of Philadelphia, and tasked with elevating the needs and concerns of Black men and boys to local government, learning of the violent and untimely death of any young Black man saddens us. What we witnessed through the bodycam footage taken the night of January 7 was not only upsetting and retriggering but wholly unconscionable.
One might ask why a commission in Philadelphia is concerned about a single incident in Memphis, Tennessee, when homicide rates in Philadelphia for Black men and boys have been at or near record highs in recent years. While MCAAM and its individual members have been very vocal and active in our efforts to address the violence in our own city we recognize that the current state of Black men and boys on a national level is at a crisis and that the gun violence we witness in our city is directly related to the ongoing murder and violence against Black bodies everywhere.
The images of the beating of Tyre Nichols brought back memories of George Floyd, Walter Wallace Jr., Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, and hundreds of other Black residents murdered by police. In addition to the trauma of witnessing another young, brilliant Black boy die at the hands of officers, it’s made even more painful that the five officers involved were themselves Black men.
Instead of being sensitive to the current climate regarding police and excessive force, demonstrating empathy towards another Black male, and doing their duty to protect and serve, the officers embodied the pervasive culture of “might makes right” that is as American as apple pie, and that the majority of our residents (particularly boys) are socialized into in one way or another early in life. They failed to recognize that neither they themselves nor the general public was in any danger, or that the situation (a traffic stop for “reckless driving”) did not warrant the level of aggression they exhibited. They ignored the pleas of this tall, thin, skateboarding father of a 4-year-old who repeatedly asked, “What did I do?” and called for his mother multiple times.
This kind of behavior reveals the inherent problems of a system that claims to offer “public safety” but is rooted in militarism, oppression, and violence. MCAAM urges cities across the country to learn a lesson from this incident and urges Philadelphia to consider implementing the following recommendations:
- Support the “Driving Inequality” legislation introduced last year by Councilmember Thomas by providing funding and technical support to examine its effectiveness.
- Examine PPD’s training, practices, and procedures to include non-lethal take-down and restraining methods.
- Institute mandatory and ongoing anti-bias, anger management, conflict resolution, and psychological evaluations, and trainings for police officers.