The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday it will review the Memphis Police Department and the use of specialized units within law enforcement in the wake of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in January.
The agency said its Community Oriented Policing Services office will conduct a review of certain policies and practices by the Memphis police at the request of Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief Cerelyn Davis.
The review will cover “policies, practices training, data and processes related to the MPD’s use of force, de-escalation and specialized units,” the agency said.
The officers involved in the Jan. 7 beating of Nichols were part of the department’s Scorpion unit, created to address rising violent crime in Memphis. The unit was permanently deactivated following Nichols’ death on Jan. 10. He was 29.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department said it would also produce a guide for police chiefs and mayors across the country to help them assess the appropriateness of the use of specialized units, as well as how to manage and supervise them, including a review of policies, tactics, training, supervision, accountability and transparency.
“In the wake of Tyre Nichols’ tragic death, the Justice Department has heard from police chiefs across the country who are assessing the use of specialized units and, where used, appropriate management, oversight and accountability for such units,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.
“The COPS Office guide on specialized units will be a critical resource for law enforcement, mayors and community members committed to effective community policing that respects the dignity of community members and keeps people safe.”
The announcement came as the city of Memphis is set to release 20 hours of additional video footage of the beating of Nichols. Authorities announced Tuesday the completion of an investigation into his death.
The video, along with new charging documents, will be unveiled Wednesday more than a month after initial camera footage was released. Five former Memphis police officers have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges in the beating.
With the investigation wrapped up, City Attorney Jennifer Sink on Tuesday released all the remaining evidence in the case to the Memphis City Council’s Public Safety Committee. She said she would reopen the case if any new information developed.
Sink also presented the panel with additional charging documents that contain more details about the actions of emergency responders, some who have been fired for not doing enough to help Nichols at the scene.
The investigation ensnared 13 Memphis police officers, including seven who were fired, three who have been suspended, two who had internal charges dismissed, and one officer who retired to avoid a termination hearing. Under the city’s pension rules, officers can retire with full benefits, even if a disciplinary action was pending.
Sink said one officer had been suspended for placing his hands on Nichols’ legs during the fracas, however, he never struck him.
The suspensions were to be served without pay, but further training was not ordered for any of those involved.
Four emergency responders with the Memphis Fire Department were also investigated, and three were fired for failing to render aid to Nichols at the scene; while the status of the fourth subject was not disclosed.
The state medical board also took action, suspending the licenses of two EMTs, one of who said the incident happened during his first day on the job.
The former officers — Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, Emmit Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Desmond Mills Jr. — who posted bond after their first court appearance in February, also face counts of aggravated assault, kidnapping, official oppression and official misconduct.
Each is due back in court on May 1.
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