Tyre Nichols’ death has stunned the nation. Video footage of his brutal beating at the hands of Memphis police officers is beyond comprehension. Amid public outcry and impassioned debate, civic leaders should look for solutions grounded in human accountability and data innovation.
Adrenaline is a natural byproduct of policing, but it is an officer’s responsibility to control adrenaline responses that can lead to bad outcomes, reining it in when approaching an unknown vehicle or activating it when chasing a fleeing subject, for example. The combination of controlled adrenaline and intellectual and emotional maturity is the training goal of every law enforcement academy, from Quantico where I completed my FBI training to the smallest local department.
Leaders need officers who can safely support the community without the ego that comes with undisciplined adrenaline, and with the flexibility to assist a woman in labor, administer opioid-overdose antidote Narcan and address a domestic abuse call – all in one day.
An uncontrolled ego is exacerbated when paired with unchecked power. When communities are overwhelmed with shootings, overdoses and random violent crime, city leaders look to specialized teams, such as anti-crime and street crimes task forces, to bring together officers with a track record of violent crime arrests to go after people holding illegal guns and drugs.
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We have seen what can happen in such circumstances when ego and unchecked power meet: The Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force, though given a noble mission, disbanded after eight officers were sentenced to a combined 112 years in prison on corruption charges.
Police departments can eliminate toxic ego from the force by revisiting how officers are evaluated. That starts with mandatory peer accountability, rather than top-down performance reviews that are already in place in most departments.
Officers on the street know the good officers who they want to back them up. They also know the bad officers who are so toxic that should they arrive on scene, good officers leave to avoid being part of a bad stop or a complaint. Instituting mandatory peer reviews opens the door for officers to comfortably evaluate the performance of their colleagues and help superiors separate the wheat from the chaff.
Policing is not only about the hardware like tasers, cameras and drones
In policing, when we talk about technology, it is almost always hardware such as tasers, cameras and drones. But policymakers are not doing enough to provide police departments with the software that will help police manage adrenaline, serve the community and use force wisely.
Cities and police departments collect a wealth of information each day from 311 and 911 systems and case management to make public policy decisions. But that data is not easily accessible to front-line officers rushing from call to call when in-the-moment context matters most to a citizen possibly having the worst day of their life.
It is vital for officers and dispatchers to understand the needs and nuances of a person involved in an emergency call as quickly as possible. To do so, they need information that goes beyond the simplified and biased National Crime Information Center’s criminal history and warrant checks most departments rely on.
The officer, citizen and community would all be better served if departments could provide those on the beat or in the squad car with better context of potential social needs as they respond, not just in the aftermath of tragedy.
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When used properly, data can be used to remove or reduce biases during service calls and traffic stops. Police are expected to know the difference between a speeder or, say, a victim of domestic violence fleeing an abuser by the end of a pursuit. How much more effective would it be to avoid costly and potentially deadly assumptions by providing officers with more complete data before an encounter?
Policymakers and police leaders must learn from tragedies like Tyre Nichols’ case. They must eliminate the toxic environments that make such tragedies possible, and that starts with policing grounded in accountability and restraint.
Empower officers to make data-driven decisions – rather than adrenaline-fueled gut decisions in the heat of the moment – and we can reduce not only crime rates but also future tragedies.
Andre McGregor is a former FBI agent and founder of ForceMetrics, a mobile-ready technology platform providing police officers and dispatchers with community insights. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrePlusData
Story Credit: usatoday.com