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Holding Bad Cops Accountable Is the Way Forward in Police Reform

by Douglas Ankney

The continuous refrain of “police reform” touting “better training” and laws banning actions such as chokeholds seems to echo endlessly. In 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (“Act”), but it died in the Senate. However, even if the Act’s ban on chokeholds had become law, it would not have saved the life of Tyre Nichols.

Nichols was savagely beaten to death by Memphis police officers using every assault imaginable other than the chokehold. Amid the calls for “professionalizing the police” by raising the current 650 hours of training to match Finland’s 5,500 hours – or by requiring police officers to have a college degree – is Noah Smith. 

On his Substack, Smith admits that there are not “good causal studies on the impact of total hours of police training on police brutality” but argues there is some evidence suggesting particular subtypes of training are effective. Yet, one of those subtypes was the de-escalation training undergone by the officers who killed Nichols.

And while diversity in a police force is a politically correct move, it does little to prevent police brutality as shown by the fact that Nichols was a Black man beaten to death by Black police officers. So, what is the way forward in a nation where the citizenry is more discontent than ever with abusive and deadly police? A time tested and proven method in America is stiff consequences and accountability. The swift firing of the officers responsible for killing Nichols followed by charges of murder did more to cause other officers to stop and think than any amount of additional training or education ever will.

Unfortunately, criminal prosecutions of bad cops are rare. Furthermore, cops are repeatedly shielded from being held accountable in civil court due to the judicially created doctrine of “qualified immunity.” Basically, qualified immunity gives cops a green light to violate a person’s constitutional rights and then claim that it was unknown to police that their particular conduct violated a right. When misbehavior is seldom punished, bad cops will continue to behave badly,
dangerously, and deadly.




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