Tyre Nichols case highlights police recruiting and retention crisis

The Tyre Nichols death at the hands of police officers has shown not only police brutality, but also massive issues like low standards for police hiring and a lack of experienced supervisors, PBS reports.

No experienced supervisors showed up to stop the police officers from beating, kicking, cursing, and pepper-spraying Tyre Nichols, ultimately murdering him. 

It points to a dangerous police trend involved in police recruitment and retention.

Memphis’s police chief acknowledged that issues have dogged the department as the city became one of the murder hotspots of the United States. 

Issues include a chronic shortage of officers, especially supervisors, increasing numbers of police quitting, and a struggle to bring in qualified recruits.

Former recruiters for the Memphis police said that there was such desperation to fill empty positions that the department lowered its standards and increased incentives. 

They would allow “just pretty much anybody” to become a police officer because they wanted the numbers. 

Recruiters said some of the police hired had “red flags,” but that no one cared. 

Many young officers never walked a beat with more experienced colleagues. And they quickly instead were inducted into specialized units like the now-disbanded so-called Scorpion unit, the high-crime strike force involved in Nichols’s arrest. Their lack of experience and basic errors were shocking to veterans.

Of the five Scorpion team officers now charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’s January beating and death, two had only a couple of years on the force, none had more than six years experience and some had blots on their records.

Memphis, in many ways, stands as a microcosm of the myriad crises facing American policing.

Departments across the U.S. are struggling to fill ranks with qualified officers amid a national and international movement of mounting scrutiny and calls for police reform. 

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