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Can police unions be part of effective change in law enforcement?

The newest members of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) attend their police academy graduation ceremony at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The newest members of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) attend their police academy graduation ceremony at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Over two years ago, the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests and prompted renewed calls for police reform. Some even came from police unions themselves. But just last month, another Black man died at the hands of American law enforcement. 

Tyre Nichols was beaten by Memphis police officers during a traffic stop and later died from his injuries.Six police officers have been fired from the department for their actions.Five of the former Memphis police officers charged in the beating are set to be arraigned in court this Friday.

As the officers await their trial, the city of Memphis is moving forward with ordinances that address police brutality and officer accountability.

Advocates argue police reform often stops short due to powerful police unions and a policing culture that is stubborn to change. So how can reform actually take place? And how can unions be involved in accountability?

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Michelle Harven, Chris Remington