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"A New Era of Accountability": What Memphis Got Right After Tire Nichols' Death


Weeks after Memphis police officers roughed up Tire Nichols, city law enforcement officials are being praised for their unusually quick investigation.

These are the critical moments that led to the death of Tire Nichols 8:51

Editor's Note:

This article contains graphic video and descriptions of violence.

(CNN) --

Weeks after Memphis police officers roughed up Tire Nichols, officials.

City law enforcement officials are being praised for their unusually quick investigation and transparency compared to similar cases in other US cities.

Five former officers were indicted last Thursday on charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping.

A day later, officials released police body camera and street surveillance footage of the deadly encounter after a traffic stop on January 7.

“If you look at some past incidents in our country, some mistakes have been made,” said Ron Johnson, a former Missouri State Highway Patrol captain, referring to his handling of past cases of police brutality.

“I think a lot of things have been done right” in this case.

“A year ago, two years ago, we wouldn't have seen some of the things that we're seeing here,” Johnson said of Memphis police's handling of Nichols' death.

Police and legal analysts point to the Memphis actions as a new example of maintaining trust in the community after fatal encounters with police.

“We are in a new era of accountability,” said Joey Jackson, a CNN legal analyst, noting as a positive the proliferation of police body cameras, cell phones and surveillance video that captures officer violence.

“The more we have these cases that are caught on camera, the more outraged the public is, the more demand there is for accountability.”

Here's what Memphis law enforcement officers got right in the days since the beating that led to Nichols' death, experts say.

  • Protesters in the US condemn police brutality after the death of Tire Nichols

Protests over the killing of Tire Nichols were small and peaceful 3:28

"Many things have been done right" in relation to the Nichols case

The incident that reignited simmering tensions over fatal police encounters with black men began when Nichols, 29, was pulled over on the night of January 7 for alleged reckless driving, according to the Memphis Police Department.

Police initially issued a somewhat vague statement about a "confrontation" between officers and the driver, later identified as Nichols, who then fled on foot.

Officers caught up with the man and "another confrontation" resulted in Nichols' arrest, police said.

An ambulance arrived at the scene after Nichols complained of difficulty breathing, according to police.

He was taken to a nearby hospital in critical condition.

Three days later, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced that Nichols had died from injuries sustained in the "use-of-force incident" with officers, according to the statement.

Authorities have not released Nichols' autopsy report.

Preliminary results of an autopsy commissioned by Nichols' family lawyers indicated that he suffered "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating," the family's lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said this week.

The full independent autopsy report is not yet ready, Crump told CNN.

After the incident, the five officers were relieved of their duties, a standard department procedure while the use of force was investigated, police said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Shelby County District Attorney's Office were enlisted to investigate.

On January 15, noting the seriousness of the officers' conduct during the arrest, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis promised “immediate and appropriate action.”

The department was "notifying the officers involved," she said.

Three days later, the US Department of Justice said a civil rights investigation was opened into Nichols' death.

"Now we're looking at cops through a different prism and when cops don't act, when they allow an event to happen for four, five, 10 minutes, then maybe they should be held accountable to an even higher standard," he said. Mark O'Mara, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, on Saturday.

“So we are in a new era, I think, of looking at police behavior in a different light towards potential prosecution.”


    The Cops Who Killed Tire Nichols Are Black, But Racism Could Still Motivate Them

The factor about the beating of Tire Nichols that worries a former police officer 2:01

Mostly peaceful protests after the video was released

Twenty days after Nichols' traffic stop, Memphis officials released the video.

They waited until 7:00 pm Friday to release the agonizing footage of Nichols' fatal encounter with police officers, allowing local politicians, activists and Nichols' family to plead for calm in the community.

“The last thing you want to do is take a high-tension event and then add something that is going to increase the tension… on a Friday night knowing that people don't have to be at work in the morning and they have the whole weekend. ahead," said CNN law enforcement analyst John Miller.

But, Miller said, the delay allowed authorities to show the public that "the wheels of justice are turning and turning relatively quickly."

The additional time also allowed officials to “bring together the faith community in Memphis, the voice of the family and the family's attorneys, and key community contacts” in calling for calm.

Hours before the video was released, the Memphis police chief tried to prepare the community, saying the footage would show "acts that defy humanity."

Still, authorities prepared for potential civil unrest.

Police departments across the country, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Nashville and New York, said they were monitoring the events or already had plans in case of protests.

“We have seen many of these cases in recent years,” Martin said.

“And when (law enforcement) do come forward and when they are transparent and provide information to the community, we usually see a very peaceful response.”

Mostly peaceful protesters in Memphis took to Interstate 55 late Friday after videos were posted online, blocking both lanes of the highway bridge that connects the West Tennessee city with Arkansas.

There were no arrests.

The video raises unanswered questions.

In the video, Nichols yelled for his mother and was beaten multiple times by officers, including punching him in the face while his hands were restrained.


Nichols cried out in anguish.

At one point, officers are seen beating him at least nine times with no visible provocation.

Although paramedics arrived minutes after the officers left, it appeared Nichols was left on the pavement without assistance several times before an ambulance showed up.

The images shocked law enforcement experts.

Officials across the country expressed outrage, including President Joe Biden, who said it was "another painful reminder of the deep fear and trauma, the pain and exhaustion that black and brown Americans experience every day."

The five former police officers charged in the fatal beating of Nichols were members of a newly created unit that tackled rising crime in the city.

Launched in 2021, the SCORPION (Operation Street Crime to Restore Peace to Our Neighborhoods) unit was heralded as a direct response to the city's worst crime, targeting homicides, robberies, assaults and other serious crimes.

On Saturday, the Memphis Police Department said it had permanently deactivated the unit after “listening carefully to the family of Tire Nichols, community leaders and uninvolved officers who have done quality work on their assignments.

“The officers currently assigned to the unit wholeheartedly agree to this next step,” the Memphis Police Department said in a statement.

“While the heinous actions of a few cast a cloud of dishonor over the SCORPION title, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all affected.

The Memphis Police Department remains committed to serving our community and taking all possible steps to rebuild the trust that has been negatively impacted by the death of Mr. Tire Nichols."

Cheryl Dorsey, a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, said footage of Nichols' fatal encounter has left many unanswered questions about what the Memphis Police Department did to prevent the tragedy.

"This was all preventable," he told CNN on Saturday.

“You have agents who are young on the job, unsupervised and doing what they regularly do.

This was not something they were not used to doing.”

Memphis City Council President Martavius ​​Jones was emotional after seeing the video, telling CNN that despite the positive change in the handling of brutality cases, much more needs to be done.

“It's the police culture that says when you have a black motorist, we can treat them anyway,” he said.

“We just have to change the culture… We have to hold people accountable.

We have to let Mr. Nichols' legacy be that there will be police reform not just here in Memphis but in this country."

CNN's Mark Morales, Shimon Prokupecz, Don Lemon, Jamiel Lynch, Jason Hanna, Elizabeth Hartfield, Travis Caldwell, Sara Sidner, Andi Babineau, Nick Valencia and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.

Tyre Nichols

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2023-01-30

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