VANDERBURGH CO., Ind. (WEHT) — Five former Tennessee police officers were charged Thursday in the beating death of Tyre Nichols, according to online records. A day later, the City of Memphis released graphic video of the police stop that led to Nichols’ death.

Left: Justin Smith, top center: Emmitt Martin III, top right: Desmond Mills Jr., center left: Demetrius Haley, right bottom: Tadarrius Bean (Photos provided by Memphis Police Department)

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Noah Robinson says he’s watched the video, and believes what he saw in the video was not policing. He calls it an “intentional criminal act”, one likely fueled by “adrenaline, anger, unbridled ego, lack of discipline and a deficit of moral character”.

The comments were made publicly on social media Saturday afternoon. This is what Sheriff Robinson had to say:

I’ve had a chance to watch some of the Tyre Nichols video out of Memphis now.

Much of what I saw in the beginning of the encounter was familiar to me. Police stop a suspect for an alleged driving offense, an arrest is attempted, the suspect flees, police pursue on foot, the suspect is captured a few blocks away. This scenario plays out dozens of times a day in this country, and certainly occurs with regularity here in Evansville.

Unfamiliar to me were the tactics I saw being used by the officers during the initial arrest and most disturbingly, the force employed at the end of the encounter.

To be clear, Mr. Nichols appeared committed to avoiding arrest. He refused to be handcuffed and then ran from the initial stop. The fact that Mr. Nichols resisted arrest is undeniable. His proximity to his home is irrelevant in terms of his criminal culpability.

As I watched the video, I was immediately taken aback by how unsound the arrest tactics and control techniques employed by the officers were. This undoubtedly allowed Mr. Nichols to initially escape on foot. When apprehended a second time, the officers again failed to gain compliance using accepted control techniques.

Then, things took a very dark turn. Likely fueled by adrenaline, anger, unbridled ego, lack of discipline, and a deficit of moral character these officers devolved from men of law enforcement into a gang with badges.

Kicking a suspect in the head? Standing a suspect up and restraining him so he can be punched in the face? This wasn’t policing, this was an intentional criminal act.

So, how could something like this happen? I can rattle off the usual suspects:
Settling for and then hiring poor candidates.
A weak field training program.
Conducting inadequate and/or infrequent training.
Failing to address complaints of excessive force.
Poor or no supervision.
Failing to foster a culture of accountability.

All the body cameras in the world won’t prevent police misconduct. My father, who retired from the manufacturing industry, once told me of a saying in his line of work, “You can’t inspect quality into a product.” He was right. Whether you are running a production line or training police officers, quality is a process, not an exercise in detecting defects. Quality must be cultural to an organization.

The officers involved in the killing of Tyre Nichols didn’t just wake up that day and decide to commit forcible felonies. They were undoubtedly allowed to operate within an environment that lacked accountability and fomented a routine lack of professionalism.

Maybe some of these officers should never have been given a badge to begin with. Maybe some learned this sort of behavior over many years of exposure to poor agency culture.

I know one thing though, the oft-repeated line about “only a few bad apples” or “the actions of these few don’t represent the values of our agency” is starting to wear very thin.

After George Floyd and now Tyre Nichols, if you are the leader of a police agency that employs officers willing to put a boot to a man’s head, then you had better be prepared to offer something other than the same tired excuses.

You cannot claim to have an agency of heroes if you allow villains to remain on your payroll.

Sheriff Noah Robinson

Along with the five officers charged in the case, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis said that other officers also are under investigation.