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Memphis and the World Are Mourning

First and foremost, our heartfelt condolences with love and blessing go out to the family and loved ones of Tyre Nichols, 29, a dad to a 4-year-old son who loved to photograph sunsets and skateboard, a passion he’s had since he was a child.

A man holding his newborn son above his head with pride.
Tyre Nichols holding his newborn son

Examining the Root Causes of Police Brutality: A Critical Look at Anti-Black Systems in Law Enforcement

This commentary suggests that we exercise critical thinking to see what is, as opposed to what we already believe to be true. We are all forced to live and operate in anti-Black systems, as dictated in federal and state constitutions and county and city charters. If it is true that structure dictates behavior and I believe it does, then it begs the question – what the hell are we doing?

“Law enforcement institutions were born of anti-Blackness (slave catchers were America’s original law enforcement officers). They worked in a place where decades of anti-black policies and tactics were created. How a police department behaves, thinks about Black communities, and mistreats Black people informs how its employees engage with the Black citizens they were hired to protect and serve – even when they’re Black. It doesn’t matter if the police chief is Black, as is the case in Memphis. She inherited the leadership of an organization that has racism deeply embedded into its DNA.” (Shaun Harper, 2023, Forbes)

There were five policemen. The body cams and an independent camera footage exposed sixty-seven minutes and thirty seconds a questionable stop and premeditated murder of a young man - Tyre Nichols. They restrained him, they kicked, punched, tased, pepper sprayed and brutally beat the life from this unarmed defenseless young man's body. (The City of Memphis released video footage)

They were fired and charged with murder, but that does nothing

- for his parents, children and those who loved and lost him

- for the future that young man once had

- for a community’s ongoing distrust of law enforcement

If your only response to trauma issues in the community is to send someone with a gun, then what we will get is violence and we will get abuse - Rashad Robinson, Color of Change

The Continuing Tragedy of Police Brutality and Its Impact on Black Lives

There have been a lot of articles written with elected and appointed "public safety" officials and leaders lamenting with thoughts, prayers and promises of accountability and training, but they must know:

- police brutality and murder has been a standard practice on Black bodies for centuries

- police brutality and their power to kill with impunity is widely known and to a large degree accepted

- police brutality has taken countless lives, many of whom we know and countless more whose names will never know

In the words of Color of Change President, Rashad Robinson, "Policing in this country is a racist institution in need of a root-and-branch overhaul. Hiring more Black officers will not fix it. More funding or training will not fix it. The structure and culture of police in this country is killing Black people. Period."

Rashad further suggests change in Memphis by:

1. End the practice of pretextual stops, and give the Community Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) the power to hold officers accountable.

2. Eliminate the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) task force that killed Tyre.

3. Fund a civilian response unit.

4. Eliminate the Organized Crime Unit (OCU), and have transparency and oversight over all special units.

I agree, but the problem is systemic.

Convening Stakeholders to Advance Shared Safety and Just Safe Principles: A Collaboration Between BOSS and CSJ

Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), in collaboration with Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), are planning to convene federal, state, local, business and community stakeholders in April 2023 to discuss the innovation of Shared Safety/Just Safe principles for local governments to build a strong safety infrastructure for whole communities.

Save the date notices will be forthcoming.

Read the full statement here.


BOSS programs are successful, innovative, based in evidence-based practices and proven methodologies, and emphasize lived experience: across BOSS, over 70% of staff (90% in reentry programs) have personal experience with the same issues faced by current participants.

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