The Justice Department on Wednesday announced plans to review Memphis Police Department policies and procedures and the use of specialized law enforcement units following the death earlier this year of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.
Nichols died Jan. 10, three days after video released by authorities showed him being beaten by Memphis police officers during a traffic stop near his home. Five officers have since been fired and charged with murder in his death. Several other law enforcement officers have also been suspended or fired in connection with the beating.
The Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS Office, plans to launch its review of the police department following a request from Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief Cerelyn Davis. It will focus on MPD’s use of force, de-escalation and specialized units, officials said.
At the end of the review, authorities will issue a public report on their findings and recommendations.
The COPS Office will separately create a guide for officials to help them “assess the appropriateness” of their specialized law enforcement units, officials said.
In a statement Wednesday, Associated Attorney General Vanita Gupta said that since Nichols’ death, police chiefs nationwide have launched reviews of their specialized units with a focus on management, oversight and accountability.
“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 and keeps people safe,” Gupta said.
The announcement of the planned review came as Memphis officials prepare to release about 20 hours of police audio and video connected with Nichols’ death. On Tuesday, the city’s chief legal officer, Jennifer Sink, said authorities aim to release the footage on Wednesday afternoon.
Since Nichols’ death, seven police officers and three fire officials have been fired. One fire official and three police officers have also been suspended, while two other officers had their administrative charges dismissed, Sink said. One officer who was recommended for firing submitted his retirement before his employment could be terminated, she added.
Authorities previously said the officers who beat Nichols were part of the Memphis Police Department’s Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, or SCORPION, unit.
Formed in October 2021, the unit was tasked with addressing violent crimes throughout the city.
It has since been disbanded.