A routine traffic stop should not be a death sentence. Even if the detainee panics. (Yes, there is the rare low-probability stop of a fugitive bank robber or someone with a trunkload of high-value contraband that goes violently sideways). And traffic stops probably shouldn't be fishing expeditions for police, because the skewed expectations on both sides that creates increase the odds of a bad outcome.
There's a certain amount of victim-blaming going around over the Tyre Nichols killing, and it's pernicious. In a police stop, one party* has essentially pledged to be the adult, and it's the sworn officer. We should be able to reasonably expect that police will exercise mature judgement; once they have detained an individual, the officer is responsible for their welfare. Nobody's got a beat-down coming from the police: punishment is the purview of the courts. Even if the detainee freaks out and runs away, despite the degree of restraint and judgement this calls for on the part of the police.
Too high a bar? Tough. That's the job, along with a belt-load of equipment, a radio to call for backup, the support of their fellow offers and qualified immunity -- in fact, because of all those things, because they walk among us with the backing of government, carrying all levels of force up to lethal with a remarkable degree of assurance it can be wielded with impunity, we expect police to behave with restraint. When they do not, it is entirely proper that justice is swift and fair.
Nobody has a beating coming from the police -- not the most innocent of drivers pulled over on vague suspicion or the worst violent offender caught bloody-handed. Nobody should ever fear getting kicked by an arresting officer while his peers hold them down. The police are not a street gang and shouldn't get away with acting like one. In Memphis, they haven't.
It saddens me to encounter a pro-police-beating contingent online. Perhaps I should have expected them; too many people are missing the "good old days," when a man could beat his wife and police could dispense "street justice" with hardly an eye batted. Those days were anything but good for many Americans, and we're not going back to them.
(Update: I'm still getting comments about how Tyre Nichols deserved what he got, from online "experts" who apparently know more than the police chief or prosecutor, who think they know more about the man's injuries from a bit of video than the doctors who examined him in person. Here's a tip: you don't. If you want to get published here, you're going to have to come up with something more insightful than the same old tired excuses.)
* "Party" in this context has nothing to do with political parties. It simply means the people involved, like "parties" to a contract or conversation. The parties to an arrest are, at a minimum, the arresting officer(s) and the arrestee(s). I'm amazed to have to explain this, but see comments.
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