In 2020, we all watched in disbelief as the failures of leadership and training, and a lack of human decency led to the murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis. 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.

As a husband, father, and Black American, I am saddened at 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.

Police departments dedicated to 21st Century Policing ideals have worked hard to establish hiring and training practices, accountability systems and oversight necessary to help prevent tragedies like this from occurring.

Here at MPD, we work towards identifying the root and proximate causes of these events. We have delivered training in cultural competencies, procedural justice, and racial bias. Additionally, we have implemented training on de-escalation and the duty to intervene, which requires officers at any rank to step in if a colleague is conducting themselves outside of the bounds of policy, Code of Conduct, or the law. Our officers receive defense and arrest training intended to prevent injury to themselves and those they are taking into custody. We have extended these measures to our pre-hire process and academy. This allows us to create a foundation for these ideals at the earliest point in our officers’ careers and also prevents us from hiring people who lack the empathy, compassion, and judgment necessary to be a true public servant.

As police departments around our nation put these safeguards in place, these tragedies occur too often for meaningful progress. I applaud the leadership and courage of the Memphis Police Department for taking immediate steps to separate those involved from their positions of authority. This action reinforces that malice and bias will no longer be tolerated in policing.

Dr. King once stated, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What is equally true is that where justice persists, threats to injustice cannot exist. We must all work to together in the constant and unwavering pursuit of justice, not only for Madison but also for our nation.

Chief Shon F. Barnes