MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — A community leader who says he was the victim of police brutality years ago in Memphis has released a video love letter to the city calling for changes following the death of Tyre Nichols.
Meka Egwuekwe said when he was Tyre’s age, he was stopped and harassed by a Memphis police officer while rushing to get his pregnant wife to the hospital.
Egweukwe said the sheer brutality of what happened to Tyre resonated with him, and he had to say something and posted the video message to Instagram.
“It’s very close to my house,” said Egweukwe. “Twenty years ago, when my youngest daughter was about to be born, I was pulled over very close to that spot and found a police officer roughing me up and throwing me into the back of a police car while my wife was in labor. It just hit home and I’m thankful that I survived.”
Egweukwe, who is the founder of CodeCrew, a non-profit that teaches coding and computer science to kids and adults in underrepresented groups, commends the city for acting swiftly with the termination and indictments of the officers involved but condemns what he calls structural problems that have fostered a culture of bad behavior among the police.
“Policing is important to have, but we have to start hitting the real problems we have in our city. We need to address poverty, poor educational structures, and systems,” Egweukwe said. “We are going to be forever dealing with crime, and then these responses to crime are nothing more than band-aids.”When we really need to be solving the real problems. We need real leadership in our city.”
Egweukwe said the city has invested too much money in over-policing, which has led to officers aggressively responding to minor offenses. Among other things, he would like to see Memphis adopt all the policies of the 8 Can’t Wait Campaign, remove police from traffic enforcement, and make more investments in people to reduce the poverty he said breeds crime.
“We cannot accept the levels of poverty not just in Memphis but around the country. In a nation as wealthy as ours, something is wrong there, and we can’t accept a broken educational system. We need to make real investments in that regard,” said Egweukwe.
Egweukwe said the city also needs to give the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board more authority to ensure accountability. He said in his case, CLERB sided with him, but action was never taken against the officer involved.
“Basically, CLERB was just an exercise to placate the public, it felt like to me,” he said.
Egweukwe said the Memphis Police Department needs to continue to investigate the other officers and first responders seen in the Tyre Nichols video but said MPD and the city’s initial response to what happened should be the blueprint for the country.
“I do commend the city for acting so quickly when they could have done like other cities and just stonewalled,” Egweukwe said. “That’s the gold standard now for the rest of the country when these instances occur.”
Egweukwe said he hopes what happened to Tyre never happens again, but the sad reality is it’s happening too frequently.