By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday renewed his call for police reform, saying officers who “breach the public trust” should be held accountable and law enforcement officers should receive the necessary training and be held to higher standards.
“I know most cops and their families are good, respectable, honorable people… And they risk their lives every time they put on that shield,” Biden said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
“But what happened to Tire in Memphis happens too often. We need to do better,” Biden added, referring to the death of Tire Nichols, the 29-year-old black man who was beaten to death by Memphis police officers in January.
“Public safety depends on the public’s trust, but too often that trust is violated… Most of us here have never had to speak up, the speech that brown and black parents have had to do with our children,” he said. said Biden. “When police officers or police departments violate public trust, they must be held accountable.”
She also said there was a need for more first responders and other professionals to address the growing challenges of mental health and substance abuse.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus had called on Biden to use his State of the Union address to push for police reform in the wake of Nichols’ death.
“It may have been Tire Nichols yesterday, but it could have been any of us today and tomorrow,” caucus chairman U.S. Representative Steven Horsford, a Democrat, said at a news conference Tuesday before Biden’s speech.
Nichols repeatedly shouted, “Mom! Mommy!” as the five Memphis police officers charged with the black motorist’s murder punched him with kicks, punches and baton slaps after a Jan. 7 traffic stop, video released by the city showed.
Seven other Memphis Police officers were also expected to face formal disciplinary charges this week in connection with Nichols’ death, the city attorney said Tuesday.
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, and his stepfather, Rodney Wells, attended Biden’s speech on Tuesday after accepting an invitation from Horsford.
Nichols’ death marked the latest high-profile case of police officers accused of using excessive force in the deaths of black and other minorities in recent years.
Biden had spoken to Nichols’ parents after video of his beating was released to express condolences.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Lincoln Feast.)