Bodycam footage of Tyre Nichols’ death at the hands of five Memphis police officers was released on Friday, reigniting the conversation around police violence.
The details of Nichols’ death are all too familiar. On Jan. 7, Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man was pulled over by Memphis police officers. After Nichols attempted to run away, the five officers tasered, pepper-sprayed, kicked, punched and battered Nichols with a baton. At one point, Nichols yelled, “Mom.”
But one detail of Nichols’ death is different: All five of the officers involved are Black.
More often than not the story of police violence in the U.S. has involved white officers committing acts of violence against Black people. The five officers in this case, who have since been arrested and charged with Nichols’ murder, show a different side of the story.
Memphis is a majority Black city, with a Black chief of police, Cerelyn Davis, and majority Black police force: 58% of the department is Black, according to the city of Memphis. The fact that these forms of police violence are still being enacted on Black men in a city like Memphis is indicative of how deeply rooted the problems in police culture are, says Ermus St. Louis, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University.