Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter & Peter Moskos – The Killing of Tyre Nichols

John McWhorter & Peter Moskos – The Killing of Tyre Nichols


On January 7 of this year, a 29-year-old Memphis man named Tyre Nichols died as a result of injuries incurred at the hands of police during a traffic stop. Nichols was black, as are the five officers who beat him, and even in an era when police killings of unarmed black men routinely make national headlines, this incident stands out as particularly horrific. There is nothing Nichols could have done to deserve such treatment. The officers involved, and possibly the EMTs who failed to administer care in a timely fashion, will stand trial, and we will hopefully learn more about the killing. But in the meantime, John and I wanted to try to understand how this could have happened, so we called on our friend Peter Moskos, a sociologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former Baltimore cop.

Peter highlights both the brutality and the incompetence at work in the killing. The officers involved have been fired, arrested, and charged, and Peter thinks those decisive actions may have contributed to the relatively peaceful nature of the protests. Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis has disbanded SCORPION, the special unit of which the five officers were a part, but Peter thinks these units need to be reformed and improved rather than dissolved. When a white officer kills a black suspect, we often hear cries of white supremacy. This event fits much less neatly into that narrative, as everyone involved was black. We discuss whether policing and race can ever be disentangled from each other in the US. And finally, after Peter takes his leave, John and I talk about Tyre Nichols’s funeral, and especially about the role that figures like Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump play when it comes time to mourn for slain black men.

In the coming months, we’ll surely gain more insight into just what went wrong in Memphis. For now, your educated guess is as good as mine.

Correction: In this conversation, we refer to Keisha Lance Bottoms as the mayor of Atlanta. She is, of course, the former mayor of Atlanta. Currently, she serves in the Biden Administration as Senior Advisor for Public Engagement.

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Featured Content from the Manhattan Institute

Tyre Nichols’s death is a tragedy, but the data show that crime soars when police pull back, writes Jason L. Riley.

0:00 The “utter horror show” and incompetent policing of the Tyre Nichols killing

7:52 The relatively peaceful reaction to the killing

15:25 What set off the cops?

21:53 Why Peter thinks police units like SCORPION should not be disbanded

27:25 Should we get rid of qualified immunity?

30:21 Policing and white supremacy

40:45 Peter: We on the left have ceded law and order to the Trumpian right

46:00 Tyre Nichols’s funeral

53:59 John: I disagree with Sharpton, Crump, and Dyson, but they’re sincere

Recorded February 4, 2023

Links and Readings

Video of Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols

Al Sharpton’s eulogy for Nichols

Benjamin Crump speaks at Nichols’s funeral

Official trailer for Spike Lee’s film, Bamboozled


Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
Race, inequality, and economics in the US and throughout the world from Glenn Loury, Professor of Economics at Brown University and Paulson Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute