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TN House Targets Reforms Enacted by Memphis After Nichols' Death

Republican Tennessee House lawmakers on Thursday advanced a bill to undo the reforms to police traffic stops made by the city of Memphis in response to the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by officers, the Associated Press reports. Nichols’ death in January 2023 sparked outrage and calls for reforms nationally and locally. Last year, activists and Nichols’ family drummed up support for the city council last year to pass ordinance changes. One outlawed so-called pretextual traffic stops, including for minor violations such as a broken taillight. But local governments in Tennessee couldn’t have similar ordinances under the House-approved bill, which has a broader Senate version that is awaiting a floor vote. The House version says local governments can’t have laws prohibiting or limiting “traffic stops based on observation of or reasonable suspicion that the operator or a passenger in a vehicle has violated a local ordinance or state or federal law.”

Videos of Nichols being stopped showed an almost 3-minute barrage of fists, feet and baton strikes to Nichols’ face, head, front and back, as the 29-year-old Black man yelled for his mother about a block from home. Five officers, who were also Black, were charged with federal civil rights violations and second-degree murder and other criminal counts in state court. One has pleaded guilty in federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating how Memphis Police Department officers use force and conduct arrests, and whether the department in the majority-Black city engages in racially discriminatory policing.


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