By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
RICHLAND COUNTY SHERIFF LEON LOTT HAS ISSUED A STATEMENT in response to the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of five police officers during a Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee.
According to Lott: “I watched the video and found it to be terribly disturbing. The actions of those officers are despicable and in no way reflective of what this profession stands for. Those officers were entrusted to uphold the law. They betrayed that trust and deserve to be charged accordingly. My prayers are with the family of Tyre Nichols.”
The statement was first published on social media by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) on January 27.
In a further statement for Police2Peace, Lott said: “Law enforcement – or better yet, enforcing the law – is an important, even primary, component of what we do, but it’s not all we do. Keeping the peace is key, and it’s a component part of our culture at RCSD. The communities we serve see that through our branding as peace officers. In fact, early police and law enforcement agencies across North America, 200-300 years ago, were widely known as peace officers, and they were so because they knew then as today that keeping the peace was and is tantamount to enforcing the law.”
Lott added, “Culture creates a mindset which drives behavior, so that deputy sheriffs and police officers unconsciously say to themselves when confronted with perhaps the baser side of human instinct or reaction, ‘We wouldn’t even consider doing that.’”
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is the first law-enforcement agency in the nation to both make the “peace office promise” and to become a certified peace officer agency through Police2Peace.
The peace officer promise, as first read by Sheriff Lott on the grounds of the S.C. State House in May 2022, states: “We, the members of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, promise that while doing our best to prevent and mitigate crime and criminal activity, we will do everything in our power to do no harm to the communities we serve and protect. In point of fact, we see our responsibility as peace officers to befriend and bring a tangible sense of security and harmony to those whom we have sworn to serve and protect. In this, we promise, we will.”
Police2Peace, an independent policing training non-profit, is a U.S. Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Assistance National Training and Technical Assistance) affiliate organization.