On January 7, 2023, five police officers from the Memphis Police Department severely beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died there three days later. He was laid to rest earlier today in Memphis surrounded by family, friends, community members, and civil rights advocates.
Tyre Nichols is only the latest victim of brutality and violence at the hands of the police. In 2022 alone, the number of people who have died at the hands of the police hit a 10-year high, with African Americans accounting for over a quarter of deaths. In the nearly three years since George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, little has changed. Congress has failed to pass meaningful reform at the federal level.
At our 51st National Convention, JACL’s National Council passed a resolution in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and specifically committed to advocating for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and The Breathe Act, which would make significant strides toward reforming police policies. Again, Congress has failed to take action on either of these bills.
We must also focus on the local level. Policing systems are fundamentally broken and not just the result of a few bad apples. Tyre Nichols’ death shows this to be true. Resources must be directed to community-based solutions to uplift communities, not subject them to oppression from over-policing. They also define the ways community care and safety are practiced in our country for future generations. The JACL strongly reiterates the need for major reform in law enforcement, which includes independent community oversight, de-escalation of force, and just and equitable police policies and practices.
It is past time we must make fundamental changes to our law enforcement agencies to ensure Black and Brown individuals are safe from oppressive and abusive police practices. Law enforcement officers must be held accountable for these heinous acts of violence. If we are to ensure justice for those affected by the trauma of these actions, we must reform the systems that have enabled these acts of violence from the state upon the people. We can do better. We must do better.