As the officers beat Dyer Nichols, a crime-fighting camera tracked them

Follow our coverage Dyer Nichols’ funeral in Memphis.

MEMPHIS – Body cameras worn by Memphis police officers who detained Dyer Nichols recorded his anguished cries and conflicting orders that he couldn’t obey. As officers punched him and pepper-sprayed him, those cameras often flickered, turned away or went dark.

But on the night of January 7, Mr. Another camera was trained on the residential street where officers caught Nicholas after he ran from them, a white metal box with a bright blue light attached to a utility pole. .

It’s one of hundreds of Skycop cameras the Memphis Police Department has installed around the city. It was watching from above, Mr. Nichols was recording being beaten and then delaying officers and medics to render aid. He died three days later.

Van D., president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP. “Glory be to God that there was a Skycop camera to capture what happened,” Turner Jr. said last week.

The overhead footage, which was released publicly Friday along with some officers’ body camera videos, provided an unimpeded bird’s eye view of Mr. After the police pulled Nichols over is considered important in shaping the public’s understanding of what happened. eye sight

Camera systems like SkyCop, which have been adopted by police departments across the country, have been criticized by activists and privacy advocates as an expensive investment that does little to prevent crime, while police departments are often located in neighborhoods — especially poor ones — where cameras have proliferated.

Nevertheless, in this case, the round-the-clock camera has been an important tool for accountability. Mr. Nichols’ death unleashed pain and anger in Memphis and across the country.

“In Dyer’s case, those cameras worked that way,” said Chelsea Glass, organizer of Decarcerate Memphis, a group that pushes to reform the criminal justice system.

Most of the footage released by city officials Friday came from body cameras and Mr. Trump, who police initially said was stopped for reckless driving. Nichols was shown being pulled from his car and then running away.

But the release also included about 31 minutes of video shot by SkyCop, beginning with a feed showing a quiet winding street lined with brick houses, where officers were walking past Mr. Before going to where Nichols was stopped on foot.

Since then, it has captured a scene of escalating brutality and its immediate aftermath: authorities say Mr. Footage shows him kicking Nichols and hitting him with a baton. Minutes later, he was seen slumped on the ground against a police car, receiving no attention from the officers or medics who arrived at the scene.

“This particular video shows not only the inhumanity, but the gross disregard for this man’s rights and his life,” said the Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner said. There Mr. Nichols’ funeral is scheduled for Wednesday.

“The sky cam video makes a difference,” said Pastor Turner, “If we were left with only the body cam footage,” it would still be painful and infuriating, but the charges against prosecutors would not be as convincing as they think they are. Officers. Five of them last week Mr. They were charged with second-degree murder, among other things, for Nicholas’ death.

The SkyCop camera that captured the beating is one of more than 2,000 stationed around the city, all of which send live feeds to the police department’s real-time crime center. Operators there can pan and zoom the cameras to provide footage in this case, which has a range of about 200 feet.

“I actually put that camera in there,” said Joe Patty, a retired lieutenant who served as the police department’s video surveillance manager and now works as a security consultant with Memphis-based Skycop.

Many of the Skycop cameras in Memphis were initially installed over a decade ago, mostly in affluent neighborhoods, when community groups raised money to buy them and donate them to the city. But in 2016, the city bought 80 SkyCops and placed them in mostly African-American and poor neighborhoods, which have continued to struggle with crime.

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Mr. Even though many in the community are thankful for the SkyCop footage of Nichols, it hasn’t erased the skepticism many still have about the cameras or, for that matter, the police who operate them.

“It’s not really about the cameras,” said Duane D., a professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. Loins Sr. said her research focuses on the relationship between the black community and law enforcement. “It’s about who heads the cameras.”

Law enforcement agencies across the country have deployed vast networks of cameras, which advocates describe as a powerful tool to fight street crime and protect against terrorism. Many of those systems now use advanced technology, including artificial intelligence and facial recognition. Studies have shown that facial recognition software is more likely to produce false matches for African Americans than for whites. A concern raised in Detroit.

In Memphis, Mr. Patty, Skycop cameras do not use facial recognition technology, but some devices are equipped with license plate readers and have motion sensors that alert operators to movement.

Mr. Grandma said.

“The unknown factor is what you’re holding back,” he said. “There’s no way to figure that out in an equation.”

However, Mr. Bhatti said they are seen as a source of comfort in some neighborhoods, especially where residents have raised money to install them. “I’ve never complained that someone wanted to take down a camera,” he said. “Always, ‘Can we have more, please’.”

But protesters have pointed out that violent crime has increased in Memphis even after SkyCops were installed across the city. Mr. Larry Turnage, 64, who lives near where Nichols was hit, said he doesn’t think they helped. “They’re going to commit a crime regardless,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Chad A., a senior policy advisor at the American Civil Liberties Union who focuses on privacy and surveillance issues. Marlowe said studies show that mounted camera systems do not deter crime. If anything, the footage of the Memphis officers helped reinforce those findings. “Police officers knew the camera was there and it didn’t stop them from bad behavior,” Mr. Marlow said.

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“It captures evidence of wrongdoing from time to time, and that certainly happened here,” he added. “But ultimately what you have is a tool that brings more police into these communities and creates more dangerous police interactions, and in this one case, it’s providing evidence of police misconduct.”

Prof. Loynes said the scenes show something unsurprising to many in Memphis, where nearly two-thirds of its citizens are black. “For black Memphians, they haven’t necessarily seen it, they’ve lived it,” he said.

He said camera footage alone isn’t always enough to get officers to face criminal charges or shootings, and to promise changes in police policy. He noted that while the video footage clearly showed police aggression, it did not result in criminal charges involving Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man from Staten Island who died in New York in 2014. The police officer put him in a chokehold.

“There’s a whole alternate universe where we have those videos and those officers still haven’t been held accountable,” he said.

In this version of events, many in the community appreciated the allegations and the role played by the Skycop camera. “I’m glad the camera was here,” said neighborhood resident Braylon Dickerson.

Marcus Belton and Mr. To honor Nicholas, Mr. Nichols stopped the hitting scene. “It’s a proven fact that it worked back then,” said Mr. Belton said. He refers to the night of January 7. “It worked wonderfully.”

On Sunday, Mr. Dickerson, 63, brought a rose to the corner of Castlegate and Bear Creek Lanes, where Mr. A memorial to Nicole has grown.

He saw a camera above the intersection and a white box emblazoned with the words “MPD” in blue and the police department’s logo.

“They may be watching us now,” said Mr. Dickerson said.

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