Cook County Public Defender Statement on the Death of Tyre Nichols

The Cook County Public Defender’s Office mourns the tragic death of Tyre Nichols. Tyre deserved to live a full and beautiful life. Instead, another young Black person’s family is coping with the reality that the individuals entrusted to serve and protect us all took their loved one’s life in a savage fashion.

We recognize the traumatic impact that Tyre’s murder has on our public defender family, our clients and our wider communities. We support the need to share grief and address this impact.

We also recognize that countless leaders, stakeholders, politicians and organizations have offered their thoughts and prayers. And while there are so many people in need of comfort, in the end, we question the value of statements of people in power if they are not followed by action.

As public defenders who are on the front lines of the criminal legal system every day, we regularly witness the atrocities of racism, injustice and inhumane practices that target communities of color. Too often these instances are downgraded as individual acts of terror when the actions we lament have clear ties to well-established policy and practice.

Tyre was killed after a traffic stop, a policing tactic that has little to do with enforcing the traffic code and is instead used to disproportionally target and kill Black people such as Philando Castile, Walter Scott and Sandra Bland.

Despite this reality, many law enforcement agencies have significantly increased their use of pretextual traffic stops. In Chicago, traffic stops skyrocketed between 2015 and 2021, with Black drivers more than five times more likely to be pulled over by the Chicago Police Department than white drivers.

So, while we grieve, we should prepare to continue our fight for change. These are not isolated incidents of violence. These violent traffic stops are part of a broader set of practices that must stop if we want to end police violence.

Rest in peace, Tyre. We pledge to continue the fight against injustice.