MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Department of Justice announced Wednesday it would review the Memphis Police Department and its specialized units.
Through the Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center, also known as COPS office, certain policies and practices of the Memphis Police Department will be reviewed.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis requested this review, which will cover policies, practices, training, data and processes related to MPD’s use of force, de-escalation and specialized units.
“I think it’s the right move. This is something that is still on the minds of everyone not just in Memphis but throughout the nation and the world,” said Memphis NAACP President Van Turner. “It’s worth the added focus of a pattern and practice investigation if they’re willing to do it.”
The review comes as the city of Memphis prepares to release more video footage Wednesday from the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols.
Turner said the review is what needs to happen to move forward.
“And we’re able to make sure that this type of occurrence does not happen again, and we do that with changing the policies. We do that with making sure the procedures are better. We do that with making sure that there’s training and leadership,” he said.
It also comes as the Memphis City Council approved five new ordinances this week aimed at police reform.
“The Council’s reforms are all well intentioned, but we need a deep dive into what’s going on in the police department and interview some people in the public and interview officers and find out what’s going on,” Strickland said.
Some of the city council’s reforms gave the the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board or CLERB the power to investigate use of force complaints and require MPD to report case recommendations on police complaints from the public.
We asked the mayor if that’s needed.
“Exercise the authority you have now and then see how that works. I think the ordinance as it now is sufficient,” Strickland said.
This isn’t the first time MPD has been reviewed by the feds. In 2016, then-police director Mike Rallings and Mayor Strickland requested a voluntary review, which was also done by the COPS program.
It looked at policies, practices, training, and interactions with the community.
“Throughout the year, interviews will be conducted with police officers, union officials, command staff, interested citizens as well as community leaders,” Noble Wray with the COPS program told WREG at the time.
It’s unclear how this review will compare to the one from 2016.
But that same year, the DOJ also investigated the Baltimore Police Department and found a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing, which ultimately led to a consent decree that required changes in the police department.
“In light of what we’ve seen. We know that doing nothing is not a possibility. If that’s what’s been done in the past, we can’t do it now,” Turner said. “It’s on us to make sure we never see another incident like what we saw with Tyre Nichols.”
Beyond reviewing the Memphis Police Department, the DOJ will also be reviewing specialized units in other departments across the country.
“I’m really glad to hear that the Department of Justice “COPS” program, Community Oriented Policing Services is working with Memphis and not only in Memphis, but around the country to look at these specialized units,” said Shelby County District Attorney General Steve Mulroy.
Mulroy said some specialized units such as a homicide unit or special victims units are fine, but Thursday on WREG’s Live at 9 he said Scorpion units and others that are similar must be reviewed.
“These particular types of units like SCORPION where they’re supposed to swarm deploy in areas and do lots of stops and frisks, and traffic stops and things like that. They often lead to a hyper aggressive mentality, jump out boys and it leads to abuse and we’ve seen that in the Tyre Nichols case,” Mulroy said.