How about decimation for the Memphis police department and city government?

The Killing of Tyre Nichols seems to be fading from the news. The New York Times thinks that pizza is more important:

There has been no coherent explanation thus far of why the police killed this particular guy, as opposed to all of the other people with whom they interact daily, but presumably no explanation could justify their actions.

We are informed that the problem is the culture/institution, not the individuals. See “The Myth Propelling America’s Violent Police Culture” (Atlantic, Jan 31, 2023):

This past weekend, as I watched the videos of Tyre Nichols being beaten to death, I asked myself, Why does this keep happening? But I know the answer: It’s police culture—rooted in a tribal mentality, built on a false myth of a war between good and evil, fed by political indifference to the real drivers of violence in our communities. We continue to use police to maintain order as a substitute for equality and adequate social services. It will take a generation of courageous leaders to change this culture, to reject this myth, and to truly promote a mission of service—a mission that won’t drive officers to lose their humanity.

The organization is at fault, in other words, and the problems extend to the city government as a whole because crime wouldn’t happen if there were “equality and adequate social services”. The author’s point that police officers’ behavior are primarily driven by peer expectations rings true and, therefore, merely imprisoning or executing a few rogue officers won’t stop the next murder by police.

What would happen in Roman times if there were serious problems with a military unit (and the police in the U.S. definitely qualify as “military”)? Decimation:

Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of Roman military discipline in which every tenth man in a group was executed by members of his cohort. The discipline was used by senior commanders in the Roman army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions.

The word decimation is derived from Latin meaning “removal of a tenth”. The procedure was an attempt to balance the need to punish serious offences with the realities of managing a large group of offenders.

A cohort (roughly 480 soldiers) selected for punishment by decimation was divided into groups of ten. Each group drew lots (sortition), and the soldier on whom the lot of the shortest straw fell was executed by his nine comrades, often by stoning, clubbing, or stabbing. The remaining soldiers were often given rations of barley instead of wheat (the latter being the standard soldier’s diet) for a few days, and required to bivouac outside the fortified security of the camp for some time.

As the punishment fell by lot, all soldiers in a group sentenced to decimation were potentially liable for execution, regardless of individual degrees of fault, rank, or distinction.

An authentic Roman-style decimation would presumably offend modern sensibilities, but maybe the proven management technique could be adapted for our kinder, gentler world (albeit not kinder or gentler for Tyre Nichols). In addition to individual punishments for the perpetrators (they’re charged with second-degree murder so they cannot be executed), why not cut the salary of every employee in the Memphis police department by 10 percent and take away a year of pension entitlement? The chief of police (“Memphis Police Department’s first Black female chief”) and mayor (“A Democrat, he previously served as a member of the Memphis City Council”) would be fired. These kinds of punishments would give institutions the incentive to reform themselves. Absent collective punishment, which of course will seem unfair to many, why should institutions bother to change?


21 thoughts on “How about decimation for the Memphis police department and city government?

  1. I do not believe in global warming. I do not care about Black Lives Matter. I hope Russia defeats Ukraine in the war. The Jews control Hollywood!

  2. I think some of your thoughts are far from reality. To cut every cops pay by 10 pct and their pension is totally ludicrous and unfair when something like this happens and revert back to why this likely happened in the first place. Memphis took police and fire pensions away back in 2015. ( There was a restoration somewhat in 2019, but the damage was already done) This caused an exodus of good trained experienced officers. To do something asinine like that again would only make crime worst in Memphis where nobody will want the job and even more cops would leave. Plus it encourages unprofessional unqualified people to take the job which causes more incidents like this to happen. To anyone to say that police culture causes the occasional incident like to this happen, that person has no clue on policing. This incident has nothing to do with race or policing. It is just sadistic rotton evil behavior. Plain and simple.

  3. I don’t understand why people aren’t using this as an opportunity to re-examine their assumptions about George Floyd. George Floyd is murdered by white police, therefore it must be racism. Tyre Nichols is murdered by black police so it’s… police culture. The conclusion I draw is that it was police (individuals, culture) that killed George Floyd, not racism. That’s the most proximate reason and cause. Instead, what we got is that all (white) people are intrinsically and irrevocably racist, and must be reprogrammed with anti-racist diversity training. You know the rest.

  4. Fox News says Desantis blocked the AP course last week, but “Dr” Phil said it wasn’t:
    “DeSantis blocked the course on grounds that it violated the Sunshine State’s Stop WOKE Act that was passed last year.”

    It isn’t hard to see the “Dr” Phil-right-wing-addled-brain news being spun to propagandize dystopian Florida developments.

    Does this not describe “Dr” Phil perfectly (maybe without the obsession with masks):
    For GOP base, battles over coronavirus vaccines, closures are still fiery

    • Mike: I do think that the article you cite is incorrect. See (“all programs and courses funded through the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) and courses or programs for which students may earn credit toward high school graduation are included in this document”)

      Counties ultimately set property tax rates, school budgets, and school curricula. Nobody at the state level can “block” Palm Beach County from offering AP African American Studies or any other course.

      I looked up our local schools. They get $303 million for FY2022-2023 from the Florida Education Finance Program. Funding from the county’s own property tax is $1.4 billion. (available from ).

      So the state officials blocked Palm Beach County from funding AP African American Studies with the $303 million in state money, leaving only $1.4 billion in local money available to fund AP African American Studies.

      It is interesting that American journalists apparently aren’t able to do the 5 minutes of Google research that I did to find this simple document showing state vs. local funding. Now imagine that level of competence extended to cover 75-year climate modeling and the human immune system versus SARS-CoV-2.

    • > For GOP base, battles over coronavirus vaccines, closures are still fiery.

      Why would anyone possibly fight against population control and for civil liberties? The left did that in the 1970s. Now the GOP does it.

  5. Skin in the game, accountability, risk reward.

    For some reason these clearly effective incentive structures aren’t acceptable for the worst performing parts of society…


    Loved learning about decimation.

  6. The George Floyd incident had nothing to do with race. I once thought it did, until I learned about Toni Timpa. And then started watching police videos on YouTube. It is a dangerous, thankless profession and there are some not so bright people in it, as to be expected. Would you take that job?

  7. The Scorpion Unit that is mentioned in the Wikipedia link sounds like extrajudicial punishment or “pre-crime” harassment.

    Tyre Nichols may have gotten on a list (perhaps his phone was in the wrong location at the wrong time or he was caught up in some other sort of dragnet operation) while being completely innocent.

    The “traffic stop” certainly sounds like a pretext.

    I think the idea of salary cuts is great.

  8. I just can’t wait for the law enforcement, fully-armed and autonomous version of Atlas from Boston Dynamics. Then the cops can just turn three or four of them loose on suspects who show even the slightest sign of noncompliance and just tear them limb from limb on camera. Then it will be just a rogue band of murderous hit-squad robots. We’re all ready for that after all the movies we’ve seen. And how could anyone claim it’s not “the organization” or “the system” when the monsters doing the killing are **robots** ?

    Officer lives won’t be at risk, there will be no human to blame, and we can all spend our days debating “the organization.”

    • We will be back to drawing and quartering in the postmodern Public Square of the Internet. Given everything else in our society that is going absolutely to hell, from totally heedless politicians who are compulsive liars to a government prepared to abandon our basic rights and liberties to fight an airborne respiratory virus, it all sounds like it’s falling into place nicely, wouldn’t you say? And as we know, robots never get tired, they continuously improve, they feel no remorse for their actions, and as robots they are totally blameless for the “system” and the “organization” deploying them.

      Don’t think our politicians are compulsive liars? Here is Joe Biden telling the same old false story about having ridden more than a million Amtrak miles – for at least the eighth time – as though the story was handed down from Mt. Sinai. At one time, there were allegedly some other words passed down from there: “Thou Shalt Not Commit Murder.” ,,, “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor.”

      “Biden Goes Off the Rails as he Repeats False Amtrak Story for Eighth Time.”

  9. The entire episode reminds me of an oldie-but-goodie by Brand Nubian, “Black and Blue” – 1993 from the album “In God We Trust.” Notice that even Brand Nubian didn’t entirely blame “the organization” or the “system” – they also singled out the rogue cop, “Cool-Ass Al” for his dereliction of duty and brutality, hinting that even in their minds, his actions were his fault.

  10. The safest video I’ve ever witnesses. Heartbreaking. U don’t believe what you’re watching. But it’s real. My spirit crys out for his family. Say his name Tyre Nichols. His spirit will never leave. .Say his name

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