MPD chief fears Memphis video will echo the disbelief of George Floyd footage
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – As Memphis, and people across the country, brace for the release of video showing the attack on Tyre Nichols, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes described the feeling prior to watching it as echoing the disbelief he and others felt when George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers.
“I fear today we will watch with the same disbelief as police officers similarly strip Tyre Nichols in Memphis of his human dignity and life,” he wrote Friday morning, prior to the video’s release.
Barnes added the situation left him both saddened and angry. Saddened by “the slow pace of progress toward a more just society.”
“As a police officer, I am angered at the unwillingness of my profession to learn from the past, and the refusal to accept that we, as police officers, must protect all people—even those who are involved in criminal activity,” he continued.
Madison community leader Anthony Cooper, Sr. runs a local non-profit working to eliminate violence in the area.
Cooper is also a Black man who said he’s seen too many other Black men die as a result of police brutality.
”It’s a big deal that we lost another life,” Cooper, Sr. said. ”You have kids who are looking at this and saying, ‘Is this what my future looks like?’”
He said police officers need to regularly check-in on their mental health and focus on preventing future police brutality incidents.
Cooper, Sr. said he speaks with Chief Barnes frequently and appreciates his efforts to make a difference in law enforcement.
“He’s trying to change what policing looks like, period, and having the conversations that sometimes people are not willing to have,” Cooper, Sr. said.
The MPD chief applauded the reaction so far of his counterparts in Memphis, who he says have demonstrated leadership and courage for reacting quickly and removing the individuals involved from duty, saying, “[t]his action reinforces that malice and bias will no longer be tolerated in policing.
Barnes went on to say his department and others across the United States have embraced what he called “21st Century Policing ideals,” which include changing their hiring and training practices; modifying accountability systems; and developing the needed oversight. He noted MPD has sought to drill down to the root and proximate causes of instances like these.
He pointed to specialized training his officers are given that includes focusing on cultural competencies and racial bias. They are also shown how to de-escalate situations and step in if they believe a fellow officer has stepped out of line. These and other measures extend down to their hiring process and academy training, he noted, saying they are meant to prevent hiring people who have no empathy or compassion or the judgement needed to be a police officer.
On Friday afternoon, MPD’s Facebook page posted a brief message, along with a YouTube link, that started with, “We are one Madison.”
“One community working together in the constant and unwavering pursuit of justice,” it continued. “Today, we mourn the loss of Tyre Nichols. A life we will honor with our renewed commitment to selfless public service.”
Madison Police Dept. spokesperson Stephanie Fryer told NBC15 News on Thursday night that Barnes has been talking to his counterparts in southern states and understands the emotions the video will likely stir. She also said the police department is already preparing for possible demonstrations in the Wisconsin capital and has been doing so much of the week. Officers who work special and large events, particularly, are being called in.
They also have reached out to community partners in advance of the release, pointing out that was a step recommended by an independent report on MPD’s response to protests that followed the George Floyd’s murder.
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