Activists speak out at Memphis City Council meeting about police reform

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday afternoon’s city council meeting heated up after activists attended to demand action in the wake of Tyre Nichols’ death.

It isn’t the first time the community has demanded police reform. After protests surrounding the death of George Floyd in 2020, Mayor Jim Strickland introduced an initiative to reimagine policing in Memphis. It resulted in MPD adopting new regulations including 8 Can’t Wait, a set of policies aimed at reducing death and violence at the hands of police officers.

Tyre Nichols’ death has some activists questioning how effective those policies are and calling for another round of reform.

“We want to know, are we really employing people who think it’s okay to beat folks?” activist Pamela Moses said at the meeting. “It could have been your son Miss Logan, it could have been you Edmund Ford.”

Demonstrators carried signs into the meeting with slogans like “MPD kills” and “This must stop” written on them and took turns making public comments about the case.

Activist L.J. Abraham said by getting in front of city leaders, they hope to enact change.

“Putting ourselves in places or situations where our voices are actually heard and asking and pushing for that change is fundamental to what is going to come down in this case,” Abraham said.

She believes MPD’s adoption of 8 Can’t Wait policies was little more than lip service.

“It has not been implemented at all. I mean, Tyre’s the fourth person who has been killed by MPD since November. The fourth,” Abraham said. “But he was the one who has suffered the most out of all of them.”

The 8 Can’t Wait policies are:

  • Ban on chokeholds and strangleholds
  • Require deescalation
  • Require warning before shooting
  • Exhaust all alternatives before shooting
  • Ban shooting at moving vehicles
  • Require use of force continuum
  • Require comprehensive reporting
  • Duty to intervene

According to the Reimagine MPD website, officers are required to “take reasonable action to intervene” when another department employee is seen engaging in “dangerous or criminal conduct or abuse of a subject.”

Abraham said she and many others feel that policy in particular has not been enforced.

“Duty to intervene would have been them stopping the officers that were using excessive force and actually doing their job and protecting,” she said. “Part of their role is to protect and serve, so they should have protected that young man from being beaten down by the police officers. That was their role and they failed that.”

Some of the activists at the meeting also demanded the immediate release of footage related to Tyre Nichols’ death.

The council thanked each of them for their comments and in some cases applauded the speakers.