KSNF/KODE — All five of the former officers accused of killing Tire Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee last month made their first court appearance today (Friday) and pleaded not guilty. We spoke to a Four State Police Chief who offers his thoughts on the systemic failure of policing in America.
“What are we trying to do? We’re trying to produce professionals in a system where, and without excuses, in a system that wants to do cheap policing. This is America,” says Robert Spinks, Parsons Police Chief.
Police reform and the drive to defund the police carry negative connotations. But that’s not what Chief Spinks thinks. For him, police reform means systemic changes. And Joplin’s NAACP chairman says the current system is antiquated but has been built into our country for centuries.
“It’s nothing new. Right? It’s not a new thing. And if you look back on it, it’s Black History Month, so let’s go back in history, right? If you think back to the 1700s and 1800s, the police were slave patrols. So, they have already been created, the department has been created with the wrong mindset with the wrong intentions. And so, we have to correct these things. And sometimes, the only way to correct these things is to sit down and reflect on how we evolved into the way we are today,” says Serita Eldridge, president of the Joplin NAACP branch.
“If we can’t hold our people accountable, if we can’t provide proper guidance and supervision, then we probably have to find another job that doesn’t have a gold badge attached to it,” Spinks says.
Body cam footage showing five members of a special police unit in Memphis brutally beating Tire Nichols reminds Deputy Chief Dennis Dodd why his department regularly alternates officer assignments.
“Officers can get too comfortable in situations. That’s why many times you will be moving agents around. Because they’re going to get too close,” Dodd says. “You will lose battles, but ultimately you will want to win the war.”
Chief Spinks says that with incidents like these, the blame is shared by both the department and the national system as a whole. He says both require change.
“Use the lowest level of force to achieve the highest level of willing obedience. This is a mantra. With our agency, it is equally important to try to convince our community that we are guardians first and warriors second. We are an aid agency. This is how police work should be.
A number of other police departments in the Four-State area declined to comment on the police beating of Tire Nichols.