Patterico's Pontifications


Demanding the Impossible: 71 Commands in 13 Minutes

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:27 am

[guest post by Dana]

Here is a link to the graphic videos of the moments leading up to the death of Tyre Nichols. The New York Times provides more details about the insane chaos that took place between Memphis police officers and Nichols on that fateful night in Memphis:

Police officers unleashed a barrage of commands that were confusing, conflicting and sometimes even impossible to obey, a Times analysis of footage from Tyre Nichols’s fatal traffic stop found. When Mr. Nichols could not comply — and even when he managed to — the officers responded with escalating force.

The review of the available footage found that officers shouted at least 71 commands during the approximately 13-minute period before they reported over the radio that Mr. Nichols was officially in custody. The orders were issued at two locations, one near Mr. Nichols’s vehicle and the other in the area he had fled to and where he would be severely beaten. The orders were often simultaneous and contradictory. Officers commanded Mr. Nichols to show his hands even as they were holding his hands. They told him to get on the ground even when he was on the ground. And they ordered him to reposition himself even when they had control of his body.

The report explains that there are protocols in place to diffuse these kinds of situations:

To mitigate the potential for escalation and confusion during police encounters, today’s police training typically calls for a single officer at the scene to issue clear and specific commands. It also requires police officers to respond professionally and proportionately to any perceived act of defiance.

But The Times’s review shows that the officers did the exact opposite, over and over.

The available footage does not show any sign that the officers present intervened to stop the aggressive use of force. If anything, it shows the contrary.

At one point, footage captured an officer saying “I hope they stomp his ass” after Mr. Nichols’s attempt to flee the scene.

Five officers have been fired for violating the department’s policy on the use of force, and are charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault. A sixth police officer has also been relieved of duty as the investigation continues.


21 Responses to “Demanding the Impossible: 71 Commands in 13 Minutes”

  1. I know that much has been said about the five officers being Black themselves. I don’t have the energy to do a deep dive into that, but consider this an open thread to discuss all aspects of the situation.

    I would add that, given the frailty of the human condition, I believe everyone has the ability to behave in the vilest of ways if the circumstances are right.

    I’m also reading a piece by Van Jones, who says that Blacks can be driven by racism too:

    Society’s message that Black people are inferior, unworthy and dangerous is pervasive. Over many decades, numerous experiments have shown that these ideas can infiltrate Black minds as well as White. Self-hatred is a real thing. That’s why a Black store owner might regard customers of his same race with suspicion, while treating his White patrons with deference.

    Black people can harbor anti-Black sentiments and can act on those feelings in harmful ways. Black cops are often socialized in police departments that view certain neighborhoods as war zones. In those departments, few officers get disciplined for dishing out “street justice” in certain precincts — often populated by Black, brown or low-income people — where there is a tacit understanding that the “rulebook” simply doesn’t apply….

    Dana (1225fc)

  2. Lowering hiring standards sure did work out for Memphis.

    edoc118 (f6616a)

  3. Dana, this seems like another tragic example of poor policing. To me the race of the officers implies that the death is less a result of racial animus and more about our systemic approach to street policing. I think race plays a factor in that (as does economic status and gender) but I don’t think this happened primarily because of race.

    Time123 (30d232)

  4. When we move trees and boulders with a crane we have 1 person who communicates with the crane operator. The lead person has to be able to distill a lot of information to the crane operator or someone might get hurt. It seems the police had no one who was designated as being the leader.

    It is impossible to comply with every order barked by several cops. They get increasingly individually pissed because their order isn’t being followed or was changed and now think best thing to do with conflicting orders is pick the most submissive one is each sequence.

    One of the things that guys who know they are going to County regardless do is run, refuse to follow any orders, struggle, because showing up dinged up by cops is a status thing. A gangster in for a DUI might fight the blood draw out of misguided principle. I can’t justify what the Memphis police did at all and don’t know what Tyre Nichols was trying to do but can see how jaded the police were and how they played their role in the dance with too much enthusiasm.

    steveg (87717e)

  5. Training and culture…..and probably too low of standards. Of those fired, the ages ranged from 24 to 32 with most starting in Memphis after 2017, so I would not think burn-out could be any kind of excuse.

    Now running and resisting will generally never end well. But the notion that street justice or payback is part of the job flows down from training and the department culture. Something has to change with qualified immunity. We also have to recognize that as we drag the prestige of policing down, the problem will only get worse as it gets tougher and tougher to find good people to join the force. It’s a job where you predominately see people at their worst which makes you assume the worst.

    More and more training, and more consequences for when the training is ignored. All of that probably means for money and higher taxes. At the firing and charging was quick.

    AJ_Liberty (5f05c3)

  6. Five officers have been fired for violating the department’s policy on the use of force

    Maybe their policy on paper but it was probably very much in line with their training. How could five policemen otherwise all go wrong?

    It’s hard to piece this together, and I haven’t yet.

    Memphis has an extremely high crime rate, and also a problem with drag racing. The SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) unit was formed to drive down the crime rate, and it did succeed somewhat. It was a form of stop and frisk.

    The city had for months touted the Scorpion team as key to its crime-fighting strategy, promoting it as nearly an overnight success at a time when the city was posting record homicide numbers. Memphis recorded more than 300 murders in 2021; by comparison, New York City, which is 13 times larger, had fewer than 500…

    …Scorpion’s supposed successes became a talking point for city officials, including Mayor Jim Strickland, who highlighted the unit during his January 2022 State of the City speech and listed its early accomplishments: 566 arrests, 390 of them for felonies, as well as seizures of $103,000 in cash, 270 vehicles and 253 weapons.

    As she marked her one-year anniversary on the job in May 2022, Chief Davis gave a presentation to the City Council in which she noted some progress in curtailing crime. In a slide titled “CRIME REDUCTION,” the Scorpion unit was her first bullet point.

    “We created the new Scorpion unit,” she said, adding: “This unit basically targets some of the hot-spot areas where we saw frequent aggravated assaults and high crime.”

    There were problems and complaints with the SCORPION unit

    Before long, some residents complained of heavy-handed tactics, of officers from the new Scorpion team employing punitive policing in response to relatively minor offenses.

    But till now nobody died, so they weren’t out to kill people.

    They were probably instructed never to let anyone they intended to arrest escape. They may have taken Tyre Nichols for a professional criminal, (after he fled) and possibly they were out to meet a quota of stops.

    It’s unclear why they stopped him. They told his mother afterwards that he was stopped for DWI (without I think telling her of his injuries – not sure) but later this was changed to driving erratically and was later said to be driving the wrong way on a 1-way street and nobody knows whether that is true or not.

    You can blame this partially on Black Lives Matter – which scares people that the police are out to kill civilians. Even the bad police usually are not, (both Waco raids were an exception) and running away does not help. But they say that later Tyre Nichols tried to surrender and de-escalate but could not.

    I would also say that the police using curse words is a very bad sign.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  7. The problems continued even after he was subdued. The EMS people were hesitant to do anything without the approval of the police, and they explained his condition by saying that he was on drugs. They may
    have really believed this because they searched his car and his clothing for drugs. In their minds, there was no other reason for resistance.

    A 6th policeman was relieved of duty but not fired. They won’t say exactly what the problem is.

    …Officer Preston Hemphill was relieved of duty shortly after the Jan. 7 arrest of Nichols, who died three days later at a hospital, said Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph. She didn’t disclose Hemphill’s role in the arrest, per the AP. Rudolph said information on disciplinary action taken against Hemphill wasn’t immediately released because Hemphill wasn’t fired, and the department typically releases information about officers who are relieved of duty after an investigation ends….

    …A Memphis police spokeswoman said Monday that information will be released when it becomes available. In addition to the five officers, who chatted and milled about for several minutes as Nichols sat on on the ground in obvious pain, two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have been relieved of duty without pay while their conduct is investigated. Two Memphis Fire Department workers were also removed from duty over Nichols’ arrest.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  8. The SCORPION police cars were often unmarked, the better to surprise people.

    You can’t say it didn’t work: (or something did)

    As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, MPD reported 237 murders and 289 homicides in 2022 (not all homicides are considered murder). Two more homicides were reported later Thursday.

    On the same day in 2021, the city already had 292 murders and 333 homicides. By the end of that year, those numbers were 304 and 346, which broke the record set the previous year.

    In 2020, Memphis ended with 290 murders and 332 homicides.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  9. I still haven’t gotten a good answer to these questions:
    (1) what exactly did Nichols do that caused the stop? They said “reckless driving” but we need to hear eyewitness accounts, preferably under oath.
    (2) why did the officers go straight to GO and yank him out of the car and throw him down to the ground? Was he escaping or trying to evade getting pulled over?
    To me, it was that first encounter that set the following series of events in motion.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7)

  10. Paul Montagu (8f0dc7) — 1/30/2023 @ 1:37 pm <blockquote I still haven’t gotten a good answer to these questions:

    (1) what exactly did Nichols do that caused the stop? They said “reckless driving” but we need to hear eyewitness accounts, preferably under oath. Nobody knows. That probably means there is no good answer. He may have been driving around at random looking for a parking space. He was very close to home.

    (2) why did the officers go straight to GO and yank him out of the car and throw him down to the ground? Was he escaping or trying to evade getting pulled over?

    They did that because they probably did that all the time.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  11. The police may have assumed that he was cruising around looking to buy drugs, but of course that’s not a reason for a stop, so they had to say something else. Usually a pretextual stop would not wind up in court.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  12. “Lowering hiring standards sure did work out for Memphis.”

    This is a popular right-wing talking point and it’s completely demented.

    1. Two of the officers were hired before any change in standards
    2. This was an “elite” unit within the police force, you don’t put your worst performing officers in it.

    Davethulhu (16e358)

  13. I still haven’t gotten a good answer to these questions:
    (1) what exactly did Nichols do that caused the stop? They said “reckless driving” but we need to hear eyewitness accounts, preferably under oath.
    (2) why did the officers go straight to GO and yank him out of the car and throw him down to the ground? Was he escaping or trying to evade getting pulled over?
    To me, it was that first encounter that set the following series of events in motion.

    Paul Montagu (8f0dc7) — 1/30/2023 @ 1:37 pm

    That’s because the police themselves don’t have a good answer.

    Timelines here and here.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  14. More problems: A delay in medical attention for Nichols:

    Tyre Nichols writhed in pain on the pavement after being beaten by Memphis police officers. His back was against a police car, his hands were cuffed, and his face was bloody. He was groaning, and he kept falling over.

    A few feet away, two emergency medical workers looked on. They helped Nichols sit up a few times after he had slumped to his side, but then, for nearly seven minutes, they did not touch him. At one point, they walked away.

    Both of the medical workers who arrived first to tend to Nichols appeared to be emergency medical technicians with the Memphis Fire Department. Fire EMTs often respond more quickly than ambulance crews to emergency calls, but their job is largely to carry out fundamental first aid: conducting a basic neurological assessment, making sure patients can breathe, checking their vital signs and stemming any major bleeding.

    Qwanesha Ward, a spokesperson for the Fire Department, said Friday that the department had suspended two of its EMTs who had treated Nichols and that an investigation was expected to wrap up early this week.

    Dr. Sean Montgomery, a trauma expert at Duke University’s medical school, said that it was difficult to evaluate the medical response, given the low quality of the nearby surveillance camera, but that the responding medical personnel did not seem to have followed standard protocol, which calls for stopping any major bleeding and then assessing a patient’s airway and breathing.

    He said it was not clear that anyone had begun to fully assess Nichols, in line with those standards, until about 15 minutes after the medics had arrived. That is when medics can be seen going into their bag of tools and treatments. At that point, it had been 21 minutes since an officer last kicked Nichols.

    Dana (1225fc)

  15. That’s because the police themselves don’t have a good answer.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8) — 1/30/2023 @ 2:17 pm

    And the five that do have the answers have lawyered up.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  16. 3 Memphis EMTs fired for their response to the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols
    Robert Long, JaMichael Sandridge and Lt. Michelle Whitaker were found to have violated multiple department policies in their patient response to Nichols on Jan. 7, the fire department said in a statement.

    “Their actions or inactions on the scene that night do not meet the expectations of the Memphis Fire Department and are not reflective of the outstanding service the men and women of the Memphis Fire Department provide daily in our community,” it said.
    “Our investigation has concluded that the two EMT’s responded based on the initial nature of the call (person pepper sprayed) and information they were told on the scene and failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr. Nichols,” the fire department said.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  17. At one point, footage captured an officer saying “I hope they stomp his ass” after Mr. Nichols’s attempt to flee the scene.

    That’s Preston Hemphill, one of the two officers who still remans suspended. The other ones name and anything about his role in the events, is still secret. Maybe it’s an officer who wrote the police report on the incident. The police report was inconsistent with the reality, as indicated by the footage.

    Incidentally, the five fired and now indicted (with identical charges!) police officers were at first only suspended the next day, January 8, before Tyre Nichols died. (but they could have known, say, that he was brain dead)

    The two EMTs were fired for failing “to conduct an adequate patient assessment” and their supervisor for never getting out of the fire truck.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  18. Hemphill’s firing a taser at Nichols got into the initial police report but not much else did.

    The police report was leaked to someone who is in trouble with the law (and maybe anti-police) and more or less confirmed as accurate by the district attorney. (Bill O’Reilly says Memphis is a very corrupt place)


    A photograph of the police report was first posted online over the weekend by Thaddeus Matthews, a talk-show host in Memphis who is known as The Cussing Pastor and who said he received it from a source. The local district attorney, Steven J. Mulroy, who is leading the prosecution of the officers, said on Monday that he had a copy of a police report with the same account.

    He was accused of violating an order of protection by mentioning her on Facebook and videos.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)


    Memphis, TN
    31 friends
    94 reviews
    Well, there appears to be some kind of underground campaign going on lately against WPLX.

    For all the people who are wondering why there’s no public outrage over whatever that idiot Thaddeus Matthews did – it’s because nobody listens.
    All you people are doing now is giving him free publicity.

    Maybe it was leaked to him because he was a known enemy of the police – or the police department has spies in it.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  20. That last is from 2012.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  21. I didn’t encounter any explanation as to the obvious question as to why Tyre Nichols funeral took place so long after his death on January 10.

    Was his family carrying out some kind of a strategy, or was it maybe that they simply didn’t have enough money? His body would not have been released so late.

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

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