The Tyre Nichols Video: A Police Beating in Memphis

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  • An Updated Turing Test
  • The Decline in Science Breakthroughs
  • ‘Wide, Hulking’ Buildings Taking Over Our Cities

Credit…City of Memphis

To the Editor:

Re “Held and Beaten by Memphis Police as He Cried, ‘Mom’” (front page, Jan. 28):

It is a basic tenet of police training that officers are not to be the judge, jury and executioner of the people they take into custody.

The five officers who beat Tyre Nichols to the point of his eventual death were either poorly hired or poorly trained. Most police departments put candidates through a very stringent hiring process to weed out people who should not become police officers; the job is not for everyone.

The kind of police officer a community wants carrying a firearm and possessing the legal authority to use deadly force is the officer who would have apprehended Mr. Nichols, handcuffed him so the officer is protected, placed him safely and securely in the back of the cruiser, and taken him to the station to be processed, charged, etc.

As a deputy police chief, now retired, I specifically looked at candidates wanting to join my department who had empathy, who wanted to be officers not so much for the power that came with the job, but for the ability to protect helpless victims of crime, and arrest those who would do harm to others.

Not one of the five officers involved in this heinous act intervened to stop the beating. I don’t care how this young man behaved after he was apprehended; once he was placed in custody all five officers had a duty to protect him from further harm.

If the officers arresting Tyre Nichols had followed that protocol, we wouldn’t be reading about his death.

Len DiSesa
Dresher, Pa.

To the Editor:

My local police benevolent association called me recently for a donation to its annual fund drive. I declined to give my support, just as I’ve done for the last few years, although I don’t feel entirely good about that.

We desperately need police protection in this country, and we also need to think about the families of fallen law enforcement officers. Those men and women often put their lives on the line dealing with armed and dangerous individuals, and for that they deserve our gratitude and support.

But something is very wrong with the way some officers do their job, and the Memphis video (which I will not watch) provides more evidence of that, as if we needed more. The five officers who pursued, assaulted and ultimately caused the death of Tyre Nichols must be prosecuted and punished. But we’ve already had so many opportunities to address this issue, and done nothing, that it’s beginning to look as if we accept the fact that things like this will happen.

I don’t believe that the actions of those five officers represent some kind of procedural norm in the Memphis Police Department. But as long as we remain complacent, just as we are when yet another deranged individual opens fire in a church, school or somewhere else, this will continue to happen, and at some point we’ll have to admit to our complicity.

Rick Diguette
Tucker, Ga.

To the Editor:

When the world sees a video of a human being brutalized by a mob, it sickens all who struggle to watch. When it turns out the mob consisted of uniformed police officers, I can’t express the shame that both retired and active cops feel.

Those five officers involved in the brutal killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis will have their day in court. In the meantime, the stench from this ugly incident will forever taint those of us who wear and have worn the uniform of law enforcement officers, and desperately need the public trust.

I can say after 33 years serving in the Chicago Police Department that nobody hates bad cops more than good cops.

What happened in Memphis does not define the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in America. If ever anything can come out of the death of Tyre Nichols, please let it be a message to all police chiefs and supervisors across the country that training and supervision start at the top. Enough is enough.

Bob Angone
Austin, Texas

To the Editor:

My first (cynical) thought as I looked at the photos of the five officers who were charged with murder of Tyre Nichols was: The prosecution would not have been so swift and just if they were white.

Lynn Bernstein

An Updated Turing Test

Credit…Ricardo Rey

To the Editor:

Re “Shall I Compare Thee to a Chatbot’s Algorithm?” (Sunday Business, Jan. 22):

Recent reporting suggests that the Turing test needs an update. Artificial intelligence can mimic human language closely enough to fool many of us. Instead of testing whether we can tell if we are talking to A.I. during a conversation, I suggest the following:

Ask the interlocutor to tell an original joke. If the reply comes quickly it is probably nonhuman. However, if the interlocutor replies with a bad joke, it is almost certainly human.

If this test proves itself, I suggest naming it the Poeton Principle.

Richard W. Poeton
Lenox, Mass.

The Decline in Science Breakthroughs

Some of this century’s biggest findings followed triumphs of incremental science. The 2015 observation of gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein, left, was the confirmation of a century-old theory.Credit…Oxford Science Archive, via Getty Images

To the Editor:

“What Happened to All of Science’s Big Breakthroughs?” (Science Times, Jan. 24) correctly identifies two things that may explain the relative decline in disruptive scientific breakthroughs over the last half-century: incremental science and large-scale collaborations.

Paradoxically, both of these may be ascribed to the huge growth in the number of scientists over the past 50 years.

More scientists means more competition for grant funding. This causes scientists to propose incremental, “safe” projects in their grant applications to maximize their chances of getting funded. It also means that large-scale projects are a more efficient way for funding agencies to distribute a relatively dwindling level of government research funding across a larger number of scientists.

We need a different type of mechanism to support iconoclastic scientists with a track record of important discoveries to undertake high-risk/high-reward projects.

David J. Anderson
Pasadena, Calif.
The writer is a professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology.

‘Wide, Hulking’ Buildings Taking Over Our Cities

In Seattle, most new private development projects must undergo a design review process to determine if a proposed project fits city and neighborhood guidelines.Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Bland, Yes. But They Satisfy a Lot of Needs” (Real Estate, Jan. 22):

The tyranny of huge apartment blocks known as 5-over-1s is not so much their ubiquity and boxiness as it is their massing. They’re built when developers have amassed enough land parcels to plop wide, hulking, horizontal masses into an urban fabric that has traditionally accommodated narrower, vertically oriented buildings.

This pattern also has more malignant effects. By consolidating small parcels, large development companies, often from out of state, make it harder for small developers and local residents to invest, and share in new wealth created, in their own communities.

Even with different colors and materials to make one hulk look like several small buildings, these structures are an obvious charade. And the same patterns across a city make new apartment blocks all look alike.

Yes, Manhattan and Brooklyn are awash in brownstones; Chicago has blocks full of near-identical two-flats; and Eastern Seaboard cities have miles of brick rowhouses. But their orientation is toward narrow lots and a vertical design that suggests a difference between building “homes” and building “units.”

The 140-year-old brownstones were built for the ages. The 5-over-1s are built for the moment.

Brian Williams
Columbus, Ohio

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