Madison Police Chief and community leaders hold press conference denouncing police brutality ahead of release of Tyre Nichols arrest video


    Leaders from the Madison community gathered to stand with Madison Police Chief Shon F. Barnes on Friday as he gave a statement denouncing police brutality in preparation for Memphis police releasing disturbing video of the beating death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of officers later this afternoon. Five officers with the Memphis Police Department have been removed from their roles and have been charged with second-degree murder.

    As the sentiments felt after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020 start to resurface for many, community members at the small gathering in the City-County Building questioned what should be done to prepare support and how to best guide the community through another nationalized incident of police misconduct. 

    “In 2020, we all watched in disbelief at the murder of Mr. George Floyd,” said Chief Barnes. “I fear today at 6 p.m., we will watch with the same disbelief as police officers similarly strip Tyre Nichols of his human dignity and ultimately his life. As a husband, father, and Black American, I am saddened at the slow pace of progress toward a more just society. As a police officer, I’m angered at the unwillingness of my profession to learn from the past, and to refuse to accept that as police officers, we must protect all people, even those who are involved in criminal activity. Police departments dedicated to 21st-century ideals have worked hard to establish hiring and training practices, accountability systems, and oversight necessary to help prevent tragedies like these from occurring.”

    The racial aspect within the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as Tyre Nichols’s murder, call into question what justice looks like when it does occur. With Tyre Nichols and the five officers charged with his murder all being Black men, the question of how quickly they were terminated and charged may present more conversation. When it comes to policing in Madison, Chief Barnes assured a focus on practices to help prevent tragedies like this from occurring.

    “Here at MPD, we work towards identifying the root and proximate causes of these events. We have delivered training in cultural competencies, procedural justice, and racial bias,” Chief Barnes stated in a news release ahead of the conference. “Additionally, we have implemented training on de-escalation and the duty to intervene, which requires officers at any rank to step in if a colleague is conducting themselves outside of the bounds of policy, Code of Conduct, or the law. Our officers receive defense and arrest training intended to prevent injury to themselves and those they are taking into custody. 

    “We have extended these measures to our pre-hire process and academy,” he added. “This allows us to create a foundation for these ideals at the earliest point in our officers’ careers and also prevents us from hiring people who lack the empathy, compassion, and judgment necessary to be a true public servant.” 

    While it is important to celebrate strides in better police-community relations, Barnes also expressed how these disturbing national incidents hinder that path. He ended his statement by calling for continued work in identifying and addressing injustice in policing. 

    The police video of five officers assaulting Tyre Nichols will be released at 5 p.m. central time today. Many have warned that the video will be disturbing, and that it may be best to avoid it if you believe it may have an adverse effect on your mental or physical health.