Memphis is becoming a war zone as the police find themselves more cautious about how any actions they take might be perceived.
First, there was the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five now-former Memphis Police officers in January. That set off national outrage and protests after video footage of his death was released. It had activists crying about racism in the police department even though the five officers and Nichols were all Black.
Then, in February, another Memphis Police officer shot and killed a Black man, only to be shot and killed himself. Officer Geoffrey Redd responded to a trespassing call at a business near the Poplar-White Station Library in Memphis. Redd and his partner confronted the suspect, Torrence Jackson Jr., inside the library where he had gotten into an argument with one of the patrons. Things quickly escalated, and Jackson pulled out a weapon and shot Redd.
Redd’s partner returned fire, killing Jackson, as library patrons scattered and sought cover.
Paramedics rushed Redd to the hospital where he later died.
Now, another person was killed and 10 more injured in a shooting in the Whitehaven neighborhood in the city.
Police responded first to a nightclub at 12:43 a.m., according to KSAT.com. Paramedics rushed two victims to the hospital in critical condition. Five other people with less serious injuries went to nearby hospitals in private vehicles and were released later that day.
While police were at the nightclub, they were notified that more victims of the shooting were a mile away from the club. They had fled the scene in a car. They responded and found four more victims. One was pronounced dead, and three others were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Police are searching for three persons of interest in that case.
While police were not involved in this shooting, it does show how unsafe things are getting in the city.
In 2021, Memphis was ranked the most dangerous city in the United States, according to a 24/7 Wall St. study using FBI statistics. It also had the second highest homicide rate of any U.S. metro area. In 2019, there were 237 homicides reported. That number was 327 homicides in 2020, although it did drop to 302 in 2022.
“Former Memphis police recruiters told The Associated Press of a growing desperation to fill hundreds of slots in recent years that drove the department to increase incentives and lower its standards,” The Associated Press reported.
This may have contributed to why police officers killed Nichols.
What Memphis doesn’t need is more police. What it does need is more good officers. However, in order for that to start happening, police members need to believe they have the support of the public and politicians. If they don’t, then the competent and empathetic ones will leave to work for other places that treat them well.
Residents have to stop seeing every interaction through the lens of race and start seeing it through the lens of whether or not law enforcement is doing their job. If someone commits a crime, they need to be arrested, regardless of race. They only need to be shot as a last resort if other lives, including those of the police, are in danger.
That is the only way things will begin improving in Memphis.
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