The death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, a black man, after his altercation with police during a traffic stop has thrust a discussion of police reform back into the news cycle. The five officers involved, who were also black, were fired and each charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. Another narrative, though, ought to be examining how it was that these officers were allowed on the force in the first place. As a report from the New York Post highlighted, that may have to do with relaxed standards.
According to the report, two of the officers, Tadarrius Bean and Demetrius Haley, both joined in August 2020, which was over two years after the department loosened education qualifications to become an officer. Among such loosened requirements included no longer needing an associate's degree or 54 college credit hours to join the force. Officers could also get hired with five years of work experience.
Predictably, experts believe that this led to "less desirable" candidates. "They’re desperate. They want police officers," Mike Alcazar, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired NYPD detective, told The Post. "They’re going through it, they check off some boxes, saying, 'Ok, they’re good enough, get them on.'"
Another report from the Post also has troubling details about the officers involved, including allegations that Haley beat up an inmate nearly eight years ago. The Post spoke with the inmate in question, Cordarlrius Sledge:
“That could have been me,” ex-inmate Cordarlrius Sledge told The Post on Saturday. “I could be dead.”
Sledge, 34. alleged in a 2016 lawsuit that ex-Memphis cop Demetrius Haley, 30, who then worked as a correction officer, took part in the May 16, 2015 beatdown inside the Shelby County Division of Corrections.
Sledge, 34, claimed in a 2016 lawsuit that one of the five ex-Memphis cops, Demetrius Haley, 30, then a correction officer, gave him a beating inside the Shelby County Division of Corrections on May 16, 2015.
Haley and another officer punched him in the face during a search for a cellphone, according to court papers. He accused a third guard of slamming him face-first into a sink.
“I had some contraband on me and I was trying to flush it down the toilet but they didn’t follow protocol. Haley was the most vicious,” he said.
Sledge said he got an apology from the prison warden but nothing from Haley, who joined the Memphis police department in August 2020.
“He got a promotion, from corrections officer to police officer,” Sledge said. “I didn’t believe my damn eyes.”
Haley denied in court papers that he assaulted Sledge. The lawsuit was dismissed after Sledge failed to provide the court with requested information.
Haley isn't the only one who may have a problematic past, though. Former Officer Bean, the other officer who had been hired after standards were lowered, was president at the Omega Psi Phi’s Eta Zeta fraternity at the University of Mississippi. Some of the chapters had experienced allegations of their own, as the Post also mentioned:
Bean was president of the Omega Psi Phi’s Eta Zeta fraternity at the University of Mississippi, an organization with a scandal-scarred past among some of its chapters.
In 2019, Omega’s chapter at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., was suspended over a slew of disturbing incidents involving pledges, or people looking to join the group, including at least one hospitalization, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Potential newcomers were beaten, and some were forced to chug hot sauce or pour it down their pants to simulate a sexually transmitted disease.
In 2018, a 45-year-old man looking to join an Omega Psi Phi chapter in Brooklyn had his buttocks and testicles paddled between 150 to 200 times as part of a twisted “welcoming ritual,” resulting in two of the fraternity’s members being charged with assault and hazing.
Evidently, the problem isn't merely with the officers, but even the police chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, who had reportedly been fired from another law enforcement job:
Davis became the first female police chief in Memphis’ history in 2021. She was axed from the Atlanta police department in 2008 for her alleged involvement in a sex crimes investigation into the husband of an Atlanta police sergeant, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Two detectives accused Davis of telling them not to investigate Terrill Marion Crane, who was married to sergeant Tonya Crane after the police department obtained photos of him with underage girls.
A federal grand jury later indicted Terrill Crane on child pornography. He pleaded guilty to one count of child pornography in 2009, the newspaper reported.
It was also reported earlier on Monday that a sixth officer, Preston Hemphill, who is white, has been suspended.
While the narrative ought to be on these relaxed standards, it has instead focused on racism, despite how five officers involved and the police chief are, like Nichols, black. That didn't stop CNN from publishing an opinion piece from Van Jones, "The police who killed Tyre Nichols were Black. But they might still have been driven by racism," who mentioned at one point that "Self-hatred is a real thing."
Jones did not address the lowered standards, though he did close his piece by speaking about standards, begging the question as to if he'll be willing to address what we now know about Memphis' standards, or lack thereof:
Any system needs to put into place adequate checks and balances. Without meat inspectors, you would see a lot more food poisoning. Without building inspectors, you would see a lot more buildings falling down. And policing is just as much — even more — in need of rigorous internal monitoring that roots out bad cops and holds the entire police department to the highest standards of conduct.
Unless there is real oversight, with real consequences for wrongdoing, bad actors will take advantage, lower the practical standards for everyone and put all of us at risk. And without aggressive oversight and swift punishment, we’ll continue to see stomach-churning acts of police violence against Black men — by cops of every color.
Jones' take was wildly mocked over Twitter, as our friends at Twitchy highlighted. Scott Morefield, in a Monday column for Townhall that was featured in the RealClearPolitics morning edition, called out others who engaged in what he called out as "race-baiting." As he aptly wrote at one point:
Still, you’d think everyone commentating on this tragic event would look for other opportunities to race-bait and instead use this tragedy to point out the urgent need for better police hiring, more effective training, and an overall culture that doesn’t treat ordinary citizens like subjects to be obeyed. But no, leftists all over social media continued to try to blame what happened on what they clearly think is the ultimate source of everything bad that ever happens: ‘muh white supremacy.’