The attorney representing the family of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man killed by Memphis police last week, has called on Congress to use this “tragic death” to pass reform legislation to rein in the epidemic of police brutality in America.
"Shame on us if we don't use his tragic death to finally get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed," Ben Crump told CNN's "State of the Union."
Video captured on bodycams and a street surveillance camera and released by officials in Memphis, Tennessee shows police officers brutally beating, kicking and punching Nichols following a traffic stop on January 7. Nichols died three days later in hospital.
His death has sparked protests across the United States and rekindled a debate about the need to change the culture of police violence in the country.
"It is this culture that says, ‘It doesn't matter whether the police officers are Black or Hispanic or white, that it is somehow allowed for you to trample on the constitutional rights of certain citizens from certain ethnicities and certain communities,’" Crump said.
Members of Congress said Sunday they need to revive their effort to pass substantial police reforms.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, acknowledged that while police officers risk their lives for Americans every day, some of the same officers are engaging in “horrible conduct.”
"What we saw on the streets of Memphis was just inhumane, horrible," he told ABC's This Week program. "I don't know what created this rage in these police officers that they would congratulate themselves for beating a man to death. But that is literally what happened."
Durbin said he would not rule out a federal investigation into the Memphis Police Department following the violent encounter with Nichols.
Nationwide, police have killed roughly three people per day consistently since 2020, according to academics and advocates for police reform who track such deaths. Police reform talks, spurred by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, collapsed in Congress in 2021 after lawmakers failed to strike a bipartisan deal.
The videotaped death of Floyd, a Black man, under the knee of a white officer was so agonizing to watch that it summoned a national reckoning that featured federal legislation proposed in his name.
Crump, the family attorney, placed the onus on President Joe Biden to marshal the US Congress into passing sweeping police reforms, a legislative imperative that has eluded federal leaders for decades even as cases of police-involved deaths have continued to mount.
The Congressional Black Caucus is requesting a meeting with Biden this week to push for negotiations.
Nichols' death is the latest high-profile example of police using excessive force against Black people and other minorities. While the violent encounter has triggered a conversation about policing, some on Capitol Hill are cautioning against new legislation to create new mandates for law enforcement.
"These five individuals did not have any respect for life. And again, I don't think these five guys represent the vast, vast majority of law enforcement. But I don't know if there's anything you can do to stop the kind of evil we saw in that video," Republican House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Protesters once again took to the streets over the weekend in Memphis and other cities, including New York, San Francisco, Baltimore, Portland, Boston and Los Angeles, to decry police brutality and call for change.
However, with Congress as divided as ever, observers say public outrage over Nichols’ murder appears once again to be on a collision course with Washington partisanship.
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