MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Since the release of the Tyre Nichols video, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis has not held any media events as her department is embroiled in controversy over what officers did and didn’t do during Nichols’ beating.
When Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis briefed the Memphis City Council on Feb. 7, it was the first time she went before cameras to discuss the state of her department.
She dropped some new bombshells including the investigation into the Tyre Nichols beating death has now netted not seven but 13 officers who are either now fired or still under investigation.
“We have looked at up to 12 disciplinary actions so far,” Davis said at the time. “As we continue to interview other individuals, we are also identifying whether its a direct or indirect correlation between this incident and other administrative violations.”
But for some, the question has become where has the police chief been?
“One of the criticisms I have for you and the mayor, you all were where is Waldo? The public didn’t hear from you. The public didn’t see you,” said Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones. “The City Council Meeting cannot be the only forum where people hear from the administration. We have no direct authority over any Division Director.”
WREG has continuously asked for an interview with Chief Davis and we are constantly told she is not doing interviews right now.
Videos of Tyre Nichols’ interaction with police have the country in disbelief and a police department still reeling as the number of officers entangled grows.
But Mayor Strickland said his pick for police chief has handled everything well, even as comparisons are made between the SCORPION Unit she started in Memphis and one she was over for a short time in Atlanta.
Red Dog was the anti-drug unit started in Atlanta to target drug dealers and street crime, but it was also plagued with accusations of violent tactics, beating down citizens, and of attacking people without asking questions. It was disbanded in 2011.
Davis was over Red Dog at one point in her career.
For many, Red Dog didn’t even come to light until the SCORPION Unit‘s downfall. Mayor Strickland was also unaware of it.
“I was not aware of the Red Dog Unit or anything like that. But the more I have looked into it, that was a completely different type of special operation than this,” Strickland said. “The SCORPION is more like the Titan Unit that is currently in Atlanta. Titan is completely different than Red Dog. Every police department has specialized units, but they do things differently.”
Officers being out of control and accused or actually charged with excessive force are things that made both units alike, and Davis had ties to both.
In cases of the SCORPION Unit, WREG has been asking the police department how many complaints have been made against officers in the unit. We were told we have to give specific names of officers yet police have yet to tell us who actually works in the unit even though Davis told city council they do track excessive force within the special units.
“And officers who have excessive use of force and other complaints, they have been moved out of the units. We have a list of officers who have been moved out of the specialized units because they just do not fit the bill,” Davis said.
But it’s information we haven’t been able to get despite the police chief saying they improved the process back in the Fall.
“We also changed our disciplinary process to capture all complaints in MPD. Prior to changing the disciplinary process most Internal Affairs numbers or control numbers were issued by the internal services bureau for investigation,” Davis said as she stood before the city council. “Many of the complaints throughout the department did not receive a control number. We centralized all of the complaints so we can capture the least complaint to the most egregious complaint in one depository through our ISB unit.”
We asked Mayor Strickland about the complaint process.
“Reimagining policing, all that data is on that website. IAB complaints and investigations they have had against the Memphis Police Department is all on that website,” he said.
Strickland told us the SCORPION Unit was included in that data but he told us he wasn’t aware that there had been complaints against the unit before everything happened.
Apparently, no one had told the mayor about any complaints, though he and the police director have touted the successes of the SCORPION Unit.
We hope to finally get the information on who filed complaints and which officers were the subjects of them. While we wait, Mayor Strickland is standing by the chief he brought in to make a change.
“100 percent. She has led this department the whole way through this ordeal. She immediately acted upon an employment situation that the city has never acted this quickly on,” he said during an interview on WREG’s Live at 9. “Our police department is as transparent or more transparent than any police department in the country.”
Chief Davis also told the city council they will eventually release the names of the other officers once the investigations are complete, but right now they are working with the legal department to determine the best way to do that.