Submitted: by M.B.
First and Foremost, Happy Black History Month #WWHHW Family. One Month is NOT enough to learn about ourselves nor celebrate ourselves, so we must do it daily. But do cherish this time to become more awareness of our background/history and how we can make our present greater to ensure a better future.
Now... let's get down to business...
We ended 2022 losing Stephen "Twitch" Boss due to suicide. That brought so much awareness that suicide truly is a silent killer and that at times, there are no visible sign of depression. He seemed so happy and whole on the outside, but was bleeding from an internal wound that no one could heal.
This New Year, we've taken a hit as musical culture losing "Earth, Wind & Fire" drummer Fred White directly on January 1st. And later that same day, we sadly lost Lola Mitchell, better known as Gangsta Boo of the rap group "Three 6 Mafia". Both iconic in their respective genres and dear to our hearts.
As a community, we took an even bigger loss. On January 7, 2023, five Black police officers of the Memphis Police Department, severely beat Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop. The initial police report filed in the hours after the traffic stop suggested he was violent and made claims that were contradicted by video later released by police. As this story unfolds, the more disgust and shame arises in my spirit. The initial police report said Nichols "started to fight" with officers and at one point grabbed one of their guns. But neither claim was valid nor sustained by the police videos released last week. And even though the video clearly shows that Tyre never fought back, the report identified Nichols as a suspect in an aggravated assault; it did NOT mention the officers punching and kicking him!
The officers involved were fired January 20 and then finally indicted last week. (Mind you, the date of the incident and the date of his death.)
They face seven counts, including: second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping in possession of a deadly weapon, official misconduct and official oppression.
In addition to the firings of five Black Memphis police officers -- all of whom face murder charges -- officials have announced the firing of three Memphis Fire Department personnel. And as of Monday, two Sheriff's deputy and two more officers are on leave. But none of this happened until the gruesome video was released! The nation is demanding JUSTICE.
Tyre had to wait 23 minutes for aid... and while he waited, he suffered from his injuries and cried for his mother.
The saddest part about it all, two of the officers are known for using excessive and unnecessary force but never reprimanded in the department for it. The were merely written up for not reporting it in their documents; no policy violations. Nothing more, nothing less.
This past weekend, there was another fatality with Metro Nashville Police. The shooting occurred in the 900 block of Buchanan Street around 6:40 p.m. North Precinct officers responded to a call about
a man yelling in the street with a gun.
"Officer Dylan Ramos, third year officer of the North Precinct, was the first officer on the scene. Ramos gave commands for the man to drop the gun. During the interaction with the man, he turned toward Officer Ramos in what Officer Ramos believed to be in the threatening way and fired, killing the man."
Video camera from business Slim and Husky and patrons from Willie B's, showed the man outside of the business, previously waving a gun but did indeed turned around in attempt to drop the weapon. Body camera video shows MPD officer Dylan Ramos getting out of the car, and within 20 seconds he fired his weapon more than a dozen times. There was no de-escalation in the situation.
Owner Chris Jones of Willie B's stated to The Tennessean "that himself and a security guard confronted the man, who pointed the gun at them and threatened them multiple times. Jerome Wilson, who manages the restaurant, also went outside to help.
"I don't know his mental state. I've seen that guy several times before ... but never with a gun," Jones said. "He wasn't right."
Jones said he saw the man throw something on the ground as a police officer approached. He thinks it was the gun, but he was too far away to be certain."
Once police arrived they were relieved in hopes that the situation would de escalate, instead the man was shot and heard in the audio "Don't Shoot Him!"
(To read more about the incident: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2023/01/30/north-nashville-police-shooting-willie-bs-own)
The pain and anguish in his voice was felt for all to hear... and to watch another black man lose his life right in front of him, when it could have easily been eased with a Crisis Intervention Team along with mental health assistance. Regardless, the Nashville community is outraged by this and wants an explanation because as stated by the NAACP, "if this was a white man, it could have easily been handled and he would have been arrested not killed ."
Within basic CIT Training, you are TAUGHT verbal de escalation and tactical responses. And for those who don't know what is classified as a crisis, it's when an unstable situation exceeds a person's ability to cope or change. Officers are TAUGHT and TRAINED on this with hopes of having acceptable goals for the outcome. Despite needing to obtain control of a situation and protecting yourself and others, the main goal is to provide support while maintaining control following with EFFECTIVE DIALOGUE.
Where was that for these two men?
Tyre dealt with an officer that not only had a personal vendetta against him due to a previous relationship, but has never been reprimanded fully policy wise for any of his actions in the past. AND was protected in each situation by his fellow officers and personnel.
This 47 year old man, who was clearly having a mental health crisis, the business owner not only protected his patrons but helped de escalate the situation to where it was safe to call 911; only wanting some assistance. And within 20 seconds of arrival, the man was fatally shot multiple times.
MNPD in January alone has surpassed the number of fatal shootings from 2022. THREE people were shot and killed last year; majority related to mental health.
Why does this matter to #WWHHW you may ask? Because not only are we for ALL people, we are for mental health. And this screams MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS on all spectrums. To become apart of the fraternal order of the police, you must not only be physically fit but mentally adequate. When you wear that uniform, you are to PROTECT and SERVE the people and surrounding communities. Records show that those officers faced LITTLE-TO-NO consequences as they've previously made forceful arrests and drove recklessly to numerous scenes. In fact, they were PRAISED by others and were described as "hard working officers who routinely make good decisions/ top shift producers." These men saw themselves as being invincible as long as their badges are on.
This isn't just a race issue, this is also an abuse of power issue. A neglect for the laws that should be not only keeping us safe but the policies that ensure our safety.
The top mental health disorders officers suffer from are: depression, burnout, PTSD, and anxiety. And if you dig a little deeper, some suffer from bi polar disorder with manic episodes and have have serious traits of narcissism. And those who are not aware, manic episode or phases can be defined as a euphoric or irritable mood along with excess activity or energy level along with reckless behavior and feeling invincible or all powerful, destined for greatness.
Improvements need to be made to the pre-employment psychological evaluations such as the MMPI-2, the Lie (L) Scale, and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). It is imperative to screen officers that may have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) because it can lower the change of committing acts of police misconduct. The MMPI-2 is used to test for ANY levels of psychopathology in those recruits that could potentially discredit the badge they wear. But somehow, it's still overlooked? The connection made prior to joining the force whether it's from military connections, fraternity or sorority connections, or even proper networking, can get you in the door quicker with a stamp of approval. It's all about WHO you know, no longer WHAT you know. There are officers that abuse their power just because they can which puts Americans at greater risk.
Tyre Nichols's case proved this selfish and personal act caused a young black man and father to lose his life. And those officers were not immediately reprimanded; that invincible mindset caused them to believe they could not be touched. That it would be another slap on the wrist and a small write up or suspension as before.
With this un-named gentleman that had an episode and sadly lost his life due to an officer making a quick judgement and not fully accessing the situation. I strongly encourage MNPD to do YEARLY mental health assessment, tactical force training, and to be more involved in the black community in Nashville. The constant need to be in hypervigilance mode when encountering the police is disheartening. And with the stigma amongst mental health as it is, people can potentially be less prone to call for crisis mobile for assistance with law enforcement.
I encourage black men AGAIN, no matter the age, to please get some help. IT IS SCARY to allow someone new into your world of thinking and hoping they understand your thoughts; i understand. But going without assistance and neglecting signs for possible need for medication to stay balanced, is just as dangerous.
By no means does this justify the actions of the officer and his decisions. This was clearly a crisis moment and where BASIC CIT Training could have been beneficial. De escalation techniques consist of distance (given them more space and reaction time), time (give them time to respond and speak), limit body gestures, maintain eye contact, and create an appropriate environment. Which was not done within those 20 seconds of arrival.
I thank the owner and manager of Willie B's for not only protecting their customers but also TRYING to help the man.
It is normal for those in this situation to feel survivor's guilt and remorse for the fatal outcome. It is not your fault for wanting to help another man and protect those around you.
Right now as a community, Nashville and Memphis needs to wrap their arms around each other and spread community love. We need not to stand alone anymore and truly start becoming a village. This month, please expand your village. Support each other and learn more of your surroundings.
There are vigils and peaceful protests for the death of Tyre Nichols in both cities this Saturday. Please be safe and stay protected. Do not engage in violence, but in love. Let's begin gathering as a community to find a solution.
We at #WWHW want to offer several mental health resources. Along with providing assistance to receive counseling services.
We recommend for black men one of the many mental health platforms:
Their mission is to provide access to mental health treatment, psycho-education, and community resources to men of color.
For those who are not ready to get counseling/mental health treatment BUT still need a SAFE space to speak your truth in the company of MEN, Check Out:
"Kings Corner is a virtual weekly meetup group for men held through Zoom. Each week there is a different topic applicable to men’s mental health issues or struggles, as well as a different qualified host specialized in the topic. We aim to offer the men both psychoeducation and therapeutic tools/resources around issues they may be struggling with. This is a safe space that promotes sharing, vulnerability, support, community, and brotherhood amongst the participants. This group is open to Men all over the country and internationally. King’s Corner has also been a great way to collaborate and partner with other professionals and organizations doing applicable and meaningful work in our communities."
"Disclaimer: Black Men Heal is NOT an emergency mental health service. We have limited and selective FREE mental health service opportunities. There is no guarantee of selection and also likely to be a waiting period to receive the free services. Therefore if you or someone you know is in need of immediate or emergency mental health care please contact 911 or google your local Mental Health Crisis Resources for appropriate contact info."
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or Text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Service Members and Veterans in crisis, as well as their family members and friends, with qualified DVA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text services.
Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone.
Or send a text messages to 838255 to connect to a VA responder.
If you can relate to this submitted story, comment and share your own #WWHHW moment.
*This forum is not a substitute to getting professional help*