Local police chiefs talk Tyre Nichols case, community policing
MECKLENBURG/GASTON COUNTIES, N.C. (WBTV) - Across the country, the conversation continues on policing in the wake of the beating death of Tyre Nichols.
Across the Charlotte area, protests and vigils have all demanded police accountability.
“We must always be accountable for our actions. I share in the anger and outrage that comes from this tragedy. There is always more to be done as we continue to improve police and community relationships. We must evolve and we must strive to be better,” CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said last week.
As departments “strike to be better,” members of the community are looking for solutions.
Also Read: GRAPHIC: Tyre Nichols beating video appears to contradict early police statements
“For our community, please base your opinion on law enforcement on how we treat you in our community,” said Gastonia Police Chief Trent Conard. “You know, unfortunately, that we’re held accountable for what happens in Tennessee. And what happens in California.”
Conard says the goal of his department has always been to “treat people the way we want to be treated.”
Friday, Memphis officials released body camera video showing the beating of Nichols.
It is graphic in nature.
There is no denying the impact it has had even on those who’ve been sworn to protect and serve.
“You know, what really went through my mind is what if that was my child? You know, I’ve got a 19-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son. And, you know, just to, you know, it was very difficult, and it’s very concerning,” Conard said.
Watch: A push for change: Hundreds in Charlotte protest after Tyre Nichols death
Pineville Police Chief Michael Hudgins says what he watched was wrong.
“How do we hire people who are empathetic and respect humanity? When I saw the video, the thing that came to me was just the total lack of humanity,” he said. “It reminded me of the George Floyd situation...lack of empathy, humanity. You’re just like, ‘enough is enough, please stop.’ This is not what we do, you’re violating our legitimacy and trust to the whole world.”
Where do local police departments go from here? What changes must be made?
In Gastonia, Conard says every new officer is taught de-escalation techniques.
“Every new officer that comes in here, of course, is taught de-escalation techniques. You know, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. That’s what we believe, makes an effective leader and that’s what we train all of our officers to be,” he said.
Hudgins says training is key.
“If you want to make good decisions under stress, you have to simulate stressful environments and Force on Force does that,” he said. “The goal of our department is to do 100 percent CIT (Critical Incident Training). That’s a de-escalation tool, but it also focuses on mental health calls for service.”
He says they’ll also post to the department’s Facebook page Tuesday to share more with the community.
He recommends anyone looking to have a voice, get involved with the Chief Citizens Advisory Panel.
In Gastonia, Conard also added, officers will be out in the community a lot more.
“Our community involvement is going to increase much, much more. Be more visible, going out, house to house talking to people, what can we do for you? How can we be better? We’re going to be soliciting more information from our communities on what we can do to better serve them,” he said.
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