The US justice department announced on Wednesday that it will review Memphis police policies on use of force, de-escalation and specialized units in response to the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols during an arrest.
The review was requested by the mayor and police chief, the department said. In a separate effort, it will examine the use of specialized units around the US and produce a guide for police chiefs and mayors on their use.
“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 Vanita Gupta, the associate attorney general.
The justice department has already opened a civil rights investigation into Nichols’s death.
The city also plans to release about 20 hours of video and audio related to the arrest of the 29-year-old motorist who died on 10 January, three days after his violent arrest. It will add to already public footage from police body cameras and a surveillance camera that gave the world a detailed look at how Nichols was attacked.
Officials have named six officers fired in the case. Five face second-degree murder charges. Those officers’ body cameras recorded them beating Nichols, propping the badly injured man in handcuffs against an unmarked police car, then ignoring him as he struggled to stay upright. They have pleaded not guilty.
The six officers fired for their roles in Nichols’s arrest and beating were members of the Memphis police Scorpion unit, an anti-crime taskforce residents have accused of violent tactics. The police chief, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, initially defended the unit after Nichols’s death but later disbanded it. Officers who were part of the Scorpion unit but not fired have been moved to other units, Davis has said.
Police said Nichols was suspected of reckless driving when he was arrested on 7 January but no verified evidence of a traffic violation has emerged in public documents or in video footage. Davis has said she has seen no evidence justifying the stop or the officers’ response.
Discipline has extended to the Memphis fire department and the Shelby county sheriff’s office, where two deputies were suspended. The fire department said two employees “failed to conduct an adequate patient assessment of Mr Nichols” while the third, a lieutenant, remained in a fire engine with its driver.
The review of Memphis police use of force, de-escalation policies and specialized units will be handled by the justice department Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center. The office has been given more than $20bn to advance community policing in the US, officials said.
The office will issue a public report outlining its findings and recommendations after the review is completed, officials said.
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