Memphis NAACP President calls for feds to investigate MPD for possible “systemic” issues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Police Department is under fire for what some are calling an attempted coverup of Tyre Nichols’ violent beating death that may have started at the scene.

There are also now deafening cries that the US Department of Justice step in and review the department’s culture to determine if a pattern of misconduct permeates its ranks.

The group of officers involved in Tyre Nichols’ beating claimed they had reason to stop Nichols as he drove home on Jan. 7, saying he had been driving recklessly, a claim Police Chief CJ Davis said on CNN that, so far, the evidence does not support.

Highlighting the quickness of the investigation, Van Turner, President of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, gives credit to the department’s handling of the fallout surrounding Nichols’ beating death.

At the same time, he said he backed calls that the Department of Justice formally conduct a “pattern and practice” review to determine if regular misconduct and unconstitutional practices exist as systemic department issues baked into its culture.

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. The investigation would involve “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,” according to the website.

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.

“We have to at this point. …[H]ow can we not do that? We have to do that. Justice demands that we try to review this case as much as possible to see where we went wrong so that we prevent it” going forward, Turner said.

When the officers made their report, from which the original police statement about the incident was crafted, they only said “confrontation[s]” occurred, that Nichols ran and that he “complained of having a shortness of breath” before being taken to the hospital.

“You would think that Mr. Nichols had not passed or was not beaten that evening,” said Turner.

Turner said the way the police reports were written are indicative of something nefarious.

“…[T]o generalize what occurred so (the officers) would have room to fabricate a story,” he said.

Asked whether he believed there was an intentional coverup, Turner said “the generalization of that report is a cover-up because of omissions.”

“Had we not seen the video footage, had the cameras not been on, had that SkyCop [pole camera] not been there, you would have had the officers’ words against nobody because, guess what, Tyre was dead,” he said.