July 13, 2024

DOJ announces broad investigation of Memphis police practices

2 min read

By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press

The investigative tool can look collectively at an agency’s stops, searches, or arrests; use of excessive force; possible discriminatory policing and more

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday it is investigating the patterns or practices of the police department in Memphis, Tennessee, seven months after the death of Tyre Nichols by five officers after a traffic stop.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division made the announcement in Memphis. The investigative tool can look collectively at an agency’s stops, searches, or arrests; use of excessive force; possible discriminatory policing; potential violations of suspects’ constitutional rights; and more.

Clarke said the probe will look into the city and its police department. She mentioned Nichols’ death, but said the investigation is not based on a single event, or a single unit with the police agency.

The five officers have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges including second-degree murder in the Jan. 7 beating of Nichols after a traffic stop — and his death three days later.  

The officers were part of a crime-suppression team known as Scorpion. They beat Nichols as he yelled for his mother. The police chief disbanded the Scorpion unit after Nichols’ death.

In addition to the officers fired and charged with murder, one officer who was involved in the initial traffic stop has been fired. That officer will not face charges. Another officer, who has not been identified, also has been fired. An additional officer retired before he could be fired.

Three Memphis Fire Department emergency medical technicians were fired for failing to render aid to Nichols. Two Shelby County Sheriff’s Office deputies who went to the location after the beating were suspended for five days for policy violations.

In June, a similar Department of Justice probe alleged that Minneapolis police systematically discriminated against racial minorities, violated constitutional rights and disregarded the safety of people in custody for years before George Floyd was killed.

The investigations can take years both the Louisville and Minneapolis probes were launched in April 2021.

Depending on their findings, the investigations can result in agreements that require reforms that are overseen by an independent monitor and are approved by a federal judge. The federal oversight can continue for years.

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