How do MPD and the City of Memphis decide what Tyre Nichols records to release?

When the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department released four videos that showed an aggressive attempted arrest and then brutal beating of Tyre Nichols, the decision was largely heralded as a step towards increased transparency in policing.

But, in the wake of that move towards transparency, a photo of an incident report, along with police narrative, from the night Nichols was beaten was leaked on social media and then published in The New York Times on Jan. 30 — and later in a CBS News article — comparing the report's inconsistencies with the actions seen in the footage.

The contents of the report, according to The New York Times, were verified by Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

With a photo of the incident report floating around social media, The Commercial Appeal reached out to MPD and requested a copy of the document multiple times.

The City of Memphis and MPD are the custodians of the body camera and SkyCop footage, along with incident reports, meaning they are allowed to release the records when they desire. The DA's office does not have this same ability with those records.

The Commercial Appeal reached out by phone, email, and the city's online public records request portal five times over the course of the past week. The department delayed or demurred in responses until Friday, when the request through the online portal was denied.

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Incident reports in their entirety are public records as they include preliminary information. Incident reports, including their narratives, are not written during the course of an investigation. The exception, as MPD has told reporters, comes with the initial narrative for homicides.

However, the photo of the leaked incident report listed the crime committed as an aggravated assault.

And the report listed Tyre Nichols as a suspect. And the now-former Officer Emmitt Martin III was listed as the victim.

Family and supporters of Tyre Nichols gathered for a candlelight vigil in honor of him on Jan. 26, 2023 at Tobey Skatepark in Memphis.
Family and supporters of Tyre Nichols gathered for a candlelight vigil in honor of him on Jan. 26, 2023 at Tobey Skatepark in Memphis.

In keeping the record from the public, MPD has repeatedly cited an ongoing investigation.

In reporting this story, The Commercial Appeal reached out Friday afternoon and asked MPD why some video, but not all, and no other records that are normally public have not been made publicly available.

Additionally, The CA asked if not releasing records has been to preserve the integrity of the investigation and, if so, what differentiates the original four videos that were released from the upcoming videos and other records that have been promised.

A joint statement from MPD and the City of Memphis Legal Division released Friday said they considered the need for transparency with the public and the importance of conducting "uncompromised administrative and criminal investigations." They also cited the potential for those being investigated to change their statements with an early release of the video.

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"We believe it is imperative that we do a thorough investigation so that all culpable parties can be held accountable," the statement said. "No video was released until after the family was given an opportunity to view the video and after it was determined that the release of those videos would not compromise the integrity of either the administrative or criminal investigations."

Tuesday evening, Jennifer Sink, the chief legal officer for the City of Memphis, said additional video and audio from the traffic stop and subsequent beating of Nichols would be released in the coming weeks, after an administrative investigation is completed.

The Friday joint statement added that "related records" will also be publicly available after that administrative investigation ends.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office, where officials are focused on the criminal investigation, said it supports the city quickly releasing the records, but understands the city's desire to complete its investigations first.

"We support MPD in swiftly releasing the incident report once they conclude their administrative investigations," the DA's office said in a statement Friday evening. "We understand the importance of transparency, but also know that certain information cannot be released immediately due to ongoing investigations."

Lucas Finton is a news reporter for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached by email at and followed on Twitter @LucasFinton.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Why is the city waiting to release more Tyre Nichols records?