An analysis of footage from the fatal traffic stop of Tyre Nichols by The New York Times has revealed that police officers issued a barrage of conflicting and often impossible commands during the incident. The review of the available footage found that officers shouted at least 71 commands over the course of the 13-minute period before they reported over the radio that Nichols was officially in custody.

Experts have commented that the actions of the Memphis police officers are an example of “contempt of cop”, a long-standing problem in policing in which officers physically punish civilians for perceived disrespect or disobedience – a practice that was notoriously prevalent decades ago. Even when Nichols was attempting to comply with the officers’ orders, they responded with escalating force. In some cases, officers commanded Nichols to show his hands even as they were holding his hands and told him to get on the ground even when he was already on the ground. They also ordered him to reposition himself even when they had control of his body.

“Experts” aren’t the only ones who have noticed this awful practice. Many Americans have had similar experiences with cops shouting orders that are either incomprehensible to understand and/or impossible to comply with. The term “stop resisting” is a familiar one to people who were arrested and usually in no position to resist anything. Many believe that police know to yell the term “stop resisting” as a cover for their over the top brutality. Creating a problem that doesn’t exist and giving them “cause” to continue the abusive behavior.

Most understand the importance of an officer maintaining control when making an arrest, but control and bullying brutality to a stunned citizen are two very different things. Fortunately, not all these encounters end in the death of a suspected traffic violator but all too many do.

Police training today emphasizes the importance of clear and specific commands issued by a single officer at the scene, as well as the need for professional and proportionate responses to any perceived defiance. However, the Times review showed that the officers failed to adhere to these standards, with no intervention to stop the aggressive use of force. The available footage only supports this conclusion. Multiple officers were barking commands to a stunned Nichols and, instead of any of the officers trying to de-escalate, they all seemed all too eager to do the opposite and escalate the violence. 

Today on MSNBC, anchor Chris Jansing recalled an experience she had on a plane on Saturday night. Sitting next to her was a young black man watching a documentary on violent police stops. As they discussed it and the events that led to the death of Tyre Nichols he said something to her that she had no response for, “and they wonder why we run.”