Less than a day before he was expected to be fired, Lt. Dewayne Smith, one of the Memphis officers on the scene of the beating of Tyre Nichols, was able to retire with full benefits, according to police documents. His exit strategy is a common one, NPR reports. RaShall Brackney, distinguished visiting professor of practice at George Mason University, said it's "standard practice" for those who work in the criminal legal system. Brackney, the former police chief for Charlottesville, Va., who also served for decades in the Pittsburgh Police Department, told NPR that police departments often allow their officers to resign or retire before they are disciplined. "The organizations have to be braver — the police institutions oftentimes think, 'OK, they resigned, they retired. We don't have to fight this in court. We don't have to go to battle over this, the problem is done; they're no longer an employee and they can no longer injure the public or the reputation of the agency,'" Brackney said. "The problem with that is it lacks courage and it says that we will allow you to off-ramp so that we don't have to do what is right," she added.
Smith, a 25-year veteran of the Memphis Police Department who has not been charged criminally in the Nichols case, served as a supervisor on the now-deactivated SCORPION unit, the specialized police unit responsible for conducting the traffic stop that ultimately led to Nichols' death. Smith's retirement came before an administrative hearing on the incident. Documents show that Smith had been charged administratively with neglect of duty, as well as making unauthorized public statements and violating the department's policy on its use of body cameras. Smith also told officers to clear the scene before an investigative bureau could be notified. According to the documents, Smith failed to "take command of the scene" or give officers instructions to preserve evidence and to provide details of Nichols' beating, according to the documents. Additionally, the documents show that Smith saw the injuries Nichols received from the five officers who allegedly beat him but did not call for medical assistance nor did he ask questions about the use of force by the five officers. Ben Crump, one of the family's attorneys, said that the Nichols family and their legal team are "deeply disturbed" that the Memphis Police Department "allowed and accepted" Smith's retirement. "We call for Memphis police and officials to do everything in their power to hold Lt. Smith and all of those involved fully accountable and not allow Lt. Smith to cowardly sidestep the consequences of his actions," Crump said in his statement. In his retirement letter obtained by The Daily Memphian, Smith said his retirement from the department "was not an easy decision," as he realized "that the time has come to move on."