Lawmaker calls for DOJ to investigate Memphis Police Department for ‘systemic’ policing issue

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The release of the video showing the brutal Memphis Police beating death of Tyre Nichols and the aftermath is causing many to look at what’s next, including a group of lawmakers, promising change will come from the state legislature.

There is also a new call for federal intervention by way of an investigation that could lead to a federal court order known as a consent decree, which would mandate change at the Memphis Police Department.

“How can you look at that footage and not want to do something?” said Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis.

Speaking mere hours after activists and protestors took to Memphis streets in the aftermath of the release of videos showing the brutal and deadly Memphis Police beating of father and photographer Tyre Nichols, a group of lawmakers stood shoulder to shoulder to find solutions.

“If a dog in this country was beaten like that, what the hell would happen?” Towns said.

One of those proposed, calling for a “pattern and practice” investigation of the department to be opened by the US Department of Justice.

In such an investigation, the Civil Rights Division would conduct a thorough review of the department.

During the investigation, the division “assesses whether any systemic deficiencies contribute to misconduct or enable it to persist, according to the DOJ’s website.

“A critical part of the investigation is hearing directly from community members and police officers,” according to the website.

The investigation would “involve interviewing police and local officials, gathering information from other criminal justice stakeholders, observing officer activities through ride-a-longs and other means, and reviewing documents and specific incidents that are relevant to the investigation.”

A public report would then be issued detailing the findings.

If “systemic violations” are found, along with “patterns or practices of misconduct” or “patterns or practices of unlawful policing,” the division would work with MPD “to effectively and sustainably remedy any unlawful practices” by way of a negotiated agreement, known as a consent decree, that becomes a federal court order.

The DOJ can also sue MPD if the department refuses.

“I’d love to see the Memphis Police Department do it voluntarily, but we need it,” said Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis.

Saturday, the group said key questions remain, including who the other officers are seen in the video outside of the five former officers already charged, and who was responsible for overseeing the group of rogue officers.

“We’re not getting straight answers,” Hardaway said. “We’re not getting full answers from the administration.”

The resolutions included legislative fixes during this year’s session, the lawmakers said.

“We continue to battle and address the need for implicit bias training among police officials across the state,” said John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, who is also Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.