MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it has opened an investigation into the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department.
The announcement was made during a press conference Thursday in Memphis by Kristen Clarke from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, WHBQ reported.
Clarke said that the Justice Department reviewed information that showed officers with Memphis Police Department “may have used excessive force against people already restrained or in custody often resulting in serious injuries,” according to the news outlet. Clarke said that the department may be using a street enforcement approach that could violate the law.
The “pattern or practice” investigation plans to answer three questions – if the department engages in a practice or pattern of making unlawful stops, searches, and arrests; if the department uses practice or patterns of excessive force; and if the department racially discriminates policing practices with respect to Black residents, WHBQ reported.
This investigation comes seven months after the violent beating death of Tyre Nichols by five police officers following a traffic stop, according to The Associated Press.
Authorities will look into the Memphis Police Department’s use of force and stops, searches and arrests, and whether it engages in discriminatory policing, the AP reported.
In a news release, the Justice Department said the investigation is separate and independent from the civil rights investigation of the officers related to the death of Nichols. The Justice Department in March announced a separate review of the use of force, de-escalation strategies, and specialized units for the department, according to the AP.
“The tragic death of Tyre Nichols created enormous pain in the Memphis community and across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland, in the news release. “The Justice Department is launching this investigation to examine serious allegations that the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and discriminatory policing based on race, including a dangerously aggressive approach to traffic enforcement. We are committed to working cooperatively with local officials, police, and community members to conduct the thorough and comprehensive review that the residents of Memphis deserve.”
“Every person is entitled to constitutional and non-discriminatory policing in our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in the news release.
“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, there are grounds to open this investigation now. We have reviewed information that indicates that the Memphis Police Department may be using an approach to street enforcement that can result in violations of federal law, including racially discriminatory stops of Black people for minor violations,” Clarke went on.
“The Justice Department will conduct a thorough and objective investigation into allegations of unlawful discrimination and Fourth Amendment violations. Unlawful policing undermines community trust, which is essential to public safety.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn Davis, and Interim Chief Legal Officer Michael Fletcher were each informed before the announcement by the Justice Department. Each said they would cooperate with the investigation.
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