DOJ says it will review Memphis Police Department after Tyre Nichols death

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it will conduct a review of the Memphis Police Department’s policies and practices after the brutal beating death of Tyre Nichols.

The review was requested by Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, according to the DOJ, which had already opened a civil rights inquiry into Nichols’ January death.

The Justice Department said it will issue a report at the conclusion of the review, which will also look at training and deescalation strategies employed by Memphis’ police force.

A spokeswoman for the Memphis Police Department, Maj. Karen Rudolph, said in an email that the department is “fully invested in this process.”

The announcement of the review comes almost two months after the death of Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who was battered and tased by cops during a traffic stop. On Wednesday, Memphis was bracing for the publication of hours of unreleased footage from the stop.

In late January, authorities released reams of footage showing the vicious beating from several angles. Five Memphis cops, who are all Black, were charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death. They have pleaded not guilty.

The Memphis Police Department disbanded the SCORPION unit, a specialized crimefighting squad on which the officers had served.

The Justice Department said it also ordered a separate, broad review of specialized law enforcement units.

The DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS office, will complete both reviews and produce a report for police departments across the country offering guideposts for the use of specialized law enforcement units, according to the Justice Department.

In a statement, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said the “Justice Department has heard from police chiefs across the country who are assessing the use of specialized units.”

“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,” added Gupta, who is known for her civil rights work.