Yes, states like California and New York moved quickly, while the issue was still fashionable, to rewrite some of the penal laws, and a few cities increased protections by doing things like strengthening the “duty to intervene policy, but national reforms remained elusive.
If there are rare occasions to use a cliché, this is one: they dodged the bullet.
If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s an anecdotal one at this point. It is the apparent impact that black women have had to disrupt the system when they gain power, not necessarily to prevent violent excesses, but at least to punish them.
The police chief who acted quickly to fire the officers in the Nichols case is a black woman.
When Rayshard Brooks was killed at a drive-in in Atlanta, the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, a black woman, accepted the resignation of her police chief and decided that the officers should be fired immediately. (Unfortunately, the officers were ultimately not charged in the case, so they sued the city and were reinstated.)
When a white Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, walked into Botham Shem Jean’s apartment and shot him dead, Police Chief U. Reneé Hall, a black woman, moved quickly to obtain a warrant for the officer’s arrest. Guyger was convicted of murder in the case.
I don’t want to suggest that a handful of cases are universally revealing, but I want to circle them as curiosities worth keeping an eye on.
Rather than point to a system evolving and becoming more humane, these examples only underscore the racial nature of the system and how slow it has been to act in places where neither those in power nor the accused officers were black.
Tire Nichols’ death is not just an individual tragedy; he is now a major victim of a predatory system that America has lost its willingness to face. The untreated wound, still festering, was bleeding through the gauze.