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Head Of MPD Says Officers Disregarded 'Basic Human Rights' in Treatment of Tyre Nichols

The Memphis Police Department

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis says the conduct of five officers who her department found were directly responsible for physically abusing Tyre Nichols was “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

“I expect you to feel what [Tyre] Nichols’ family feels. I expect you to feel outrage in the disregard of basic human rights,” she said in a roughly four-minute video statement released late Wednesday night.

It is the first time she has addressed the incident publicly outside of written statements.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father and FedEx employee, died three days after officers pulled him over for reckless driving on Jan. 7. They proceeded to eventually arrest him after what they initially reported as a foot chase and two "confrontations" with him.

His family and attorneys, who have seen video footage from the encounter, say officers beat a defenseless Nichols for three minutes, treating him like a “human pinata.” They compared it to the 1991 beating of Rodney King at the hands of law enforcement in Los Angeles.

Following an internal investigation, MPD dismissed the five officers last Friday for excessive use of force and failures to intervene and render aid.

“This is not just a professional failing, this is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual,” Davis said.

She added that other officers are still under review in connection to the incident.

“Some infractions are less egregious than others,” Davis said without providing further details.

Two Memphis Fire Department employees are also currently suspended while they undergo an internal investigation. The employees were involved in the initial patient care of Nichols.

Davis said video footage from the incident will be released publicly in the coming days and asked that any demonstrations in response remain peaceful.

“I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest to demand action and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process” she said. “None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”

In addition to cooperating with ongoing criminal investigations of the incident, moving forward, Davis committed to reevaluate policies and procedures at the department, specifically in regard to specialized units. All five fired officers were part of what’s known as the special SCORPION initiative that focuses on areas of the city with elevated levels of crime, according to reporting from the Daily Memphian.

“It is my intent as a proactive measure to ensure that a complete and independent review is conducted on all of the Memphis Police Department's specialized units and the commitment of my executive leadership to ensure the policies and procedures are adhered to in our daily encounters with the citizens we are sworn to serve,” she said.

Watch the full video statement here.

Katie is a part-time WKNO contributor. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org