The Justice Department is launching an examination of the Memphis Police Department’s use of force policies and practices, adding a new layer of federal scrutiny to a local agency that has faced wide criticism since its officers were videotaped beating Tyre Nichols in January. The review will encompass police training, policies and activities that relate to using force, de-escalation efforts and operating specialized units, the Justice Department said. The probe was announced just over two months after officers in Memphis were recorded brutally beating Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, after a traffic stop, reports the Washington Post. he died three days later.
The beating led the Memphis police to fire seven officers, five of whom have been charged with second-degree murder, and prompted a spate of local, state and federal probes into what happened, with local police, sheriff’s deputies and fire personnel drawing scrutiny. Additional criminal charges are also possible while a federal civil rights probe is under way. After the video footage of Nichols’s beating was released, the Memphis police also shut down the specialized group — known as the Scorpion unit — where the five officers charged in his death were assigned. The Justice Department said Wednesday that it plans to “produce a guide” for local police chiefs and mayors “to help them assess the appropriateness of the use of specialized units" and ensure proper oversight. “In the wake of Tyre Nichols’s 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," said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.