NH police chiefs: Officers' beating of Tyre Nichols was 'indefensible'

  • In US
  • 2023-02-03 04:59:00Z
  • By New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester

Feb. 2-New Hampshire police chiefs are condemning as "indefensible and appalling" the actions of five police officers that led to the death of a 29-year-old man in Memphis, Tennessee.

In a letter addressed to "Granite State citizens" released on Thursday, the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police offered condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols, who died on Jan. 10, three days after he was beaten by the Memphis officers after a nighttime traffic stop. The letter bluntly referred to Nichols' death as "murder."

"We are well aware that no words, written or spoken, could provide any measure of comfort for the Nichols family," the letter reads. "We do, however, express to the family, friends and colleagues of Tyre Nichols our prayers during this time of immense pain."

A video released last Friday, compiled from police bodycam and surveillance camera footage, showed the five officers repeatedly kicking, punching and beating Nichols with a baton, even as he apparently did nothing to resist and called for his mother.

The officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other crimes. The federal Department of Justice is conducting a separate civil rights investigation, and the incident has renewed calls for police reform.

The New Hampshire chiefs said in light of Nichols' death, they wanted to reaffirm "that there is no place in policing for such egregious acts of violence against the citizens and communities we are entrusted with serving and protecting."

"Sadly, such horrific acts only undermine and erode the work of the many dedicated, compassionate, and honorable men and women who serve as guardians of communities in the Granite State and across the United States.

"We hope and pray that justice will prevail for Mr. Nichols, his family, and his community," the NHACOP letter said.

Charles Reynolds, who was police chief in Dover from 1972 to 1991, has spent much of his career since then working on police reforms. He agreed with the statement from NHACOP, which he previously served as president.

"Right off, you say how did you get to this stage where they have a number of officers engaged in this out-of-control situation - and out of control is what this was," he said.

Reynolds said the investigation of the incident should look into the supervision and scope of the SCORPION street crimes unit to which the five Memphis officers were assigned.

Any time a law enforcement agency creates a specialized unit that targets certain crimes or activities, Reynolds said, it's important to carefully select the officers assigned to the unit. "You have to make sure they're pretty focused, measured, disciplined officers who will go out there and do the job, and do it the way it needs to be done, and not get overly anxious," he said.

Close supervision of such units is also key, Reynolds said. That's one thing that struck him about the Memphis incident, which lasted more than 37 minutes, according to published reports that analyzed the videos. "You have a number of police officers there but you had no supervisor there taking charge of the event and trying to control the event," he said.

"It's also important, if you start getting complaints about a specialized unit, that each of those complaints are very carefully analyzed to make sure the officers are not going out of acceptable legal and policy parameters," Reynolds said.

Chiefs speak out

Individual New Hampshire police departments also issued statements condemning the police beating of Nichols.

Portsmouth Chief Mark Newport said his department "is deeply saddened" by Nichols' death, and he offered condolences to Nichols' family and friends and the Memphis community.

"The heinous actions of the involved officers displayed in the released video are inexcusable and deplorable," Newport said. "They go against our sworn oath as police officers and have brought shame to officers across the nation who work selflessly every day to protect and serve their communities and hold themselves to the highest standards of this profession."

Manchester Chief Allen Aldenberg said he and all members of his department "are saddened and equally disgusted by the actions of the Memphis Police Officers and for the inhumane way that they treated Tyre Nichols."

Aldenberg said, "The lack of basic humanity is striking and has no place in policing - or society for that matter."

The NHACOP letter contained a similar condemnation, "There is no place in the policing profession for those who engage in acts of impropriety, misconduct or mistreatment of those we are sworn to protect and serve," it said.

Reynolds, who has worked on federal consent decrees implementing police reforms for departments in Michigan, New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio, said he wasn't surprised at the strongly worded statement from the NHACOP.

"There's not much tolerance of misconduct with the New Hampshire chiefs," he said.

The apparent failures by the Memphis Police Department, Reynolds said, led not only to the tragic death of Nichols, but to severe consequences for the officers involved. "Their lives are wrecked, too," he said.

Such incidents of police brutality also can have negative repercussions for good police officers here, Reynolds said.

"People start drawing conclusions about New Hampshire officers - and it's just not true," he said.



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