MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG Investigators have been digging into use of excessive force by officers for the past several years to help find solutions.
It’s an issue that has come to the forefront again recently following the death of Tyre Nichols after a Memphis Police traffic stop turned violent.
The latest data we found shows there were more than 834,000 calls for service in 2021 and 1,200 of those involved the officer using some kind of force.
Those incidents are typically handled internally, and for the past several years, we’ve been working to expose them to find out how each complaint was handled.
We worked in partnership to uncover some of these incidents with The Daily Memphian and the Institute for Public Service Reporting.
We want to warn you, the video you’re about to see in the links below may be hard to watch. Click the headlines to read more.
Through the Tennessee Open Records Act, we uncovered this cell phone video from March 2016 capturing a man with his hands behind his back in handcuffs.
A Memphis police officer fired a stun gun. Internal documents state one prong entered the man’s back and another into his leg. The officer claimed the man pulled away when he tried to put him in the squad car, so he fired his stun gun.
Internal affairs ruled four months later the officer was in the wrong. He was suspended 10 days.
Later in 2016, body cameras were recording when an officer took a juvenile into custody following a traffic stop. The juvenile said the officer “placed his right arm around her neck” and she “was not able to breathe.”
The officer said he didn’t choke her, and Internal Affairs later stated the officer didn’t do anything wrong.
We also uncovered this body camera footage of a 91-year-old’s encounter with officers in his neighborhood in 2017.
Officers say the elderly man “aggressively” waved his walking stick, so they pressed him against their squad car and handcuffed him.
Their actions came under review months later and resulted in a one-day suspension and sensitivity training for one officer. The other was suspended for two days and reassigned to a unit dedicated to community policing.
Then in January 2019, an officer boasted on his body camera about what he did to a man they took into custody for reportedly vandalizing a store.
He said the man, who they encountered in the past, kicked the backdoor of his squad car, so he sprayed pepper foam into the car. Internal Affairs documents state he didn’t crack the window for five minutes and fifty-five seconds.
The officer resigned before his administrative hearing but was later charged with official oppression.
On Jan. 7 this year, the actions of MPD officers were called into question yet again after a traffic stop ended with the death of Tyre Nichols.
Video hasn’t been released to the public, but his family has now seen it, and unlike the other cases we’ve covered, the actions of the officers that night sparked an immediate internal investigation. It concluded within days and resulted in the termination of five officers.
That reaction should give you an idea of how just how serious MPD brass thinks this is.