Memphis Police Department disciplines 7th officer, emergency responders fired
The killing of Nichols, who was black, led to days of public discussion of how police forces can treat black citizens with excessive force, regardless of the race of both the police officers and those being policed.
The five officers charged. From top row from left, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, bottom row from left, Desmond Mills jnr and Justin Smith.Credit:AP
On body camera footage of the initial stop, Hemphill is heard saying that he stunned Nichols, declaring, “I hope they kick his ass”.
Nichols’ death was the latest example in a long line of early police use-of-force reports later shown to have minimized or ignored violent and sometimes deadly encounters.
Memphis Police Department officers used a stun gun, a baton and their fists as they tasered Nichols during the arrest. Video shows Nichols running away from officers in the direction of his home after being pulled over on suspicion of reckless driving. Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was heard on video calling out to his mother and seen struggling with his injuries as he sat helplessly on the pavement.
The five officers chatted and milled around for several minutes while Nichols remained on the ground, but there were other authorities on the scene. Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies have been suspended without pay while their conduct is investigated.
In the Nichols case, the police department was responsible for internal disciplinary measures, such as firings, while the Shelby County district attorney handled the criminal charges.
Hemphill was the third officer at a traffic stop that preceded the violent arrest, but was not at the scene where Nichols was beaten, said his attorney Lee Gerald. Hemphill turned on his body camera, in accordance with department policy, he added.
Attorneys for the Nichols family questioned Monday why the department did not disclose Hemphill’s discipline earlier and why he was not fired or charged.
“We have asked from the beginning that the Memphis Police Department be transparent with the family and the community – this news seems to indicate that they have not risen to the occasion,” attorneys Ben Crump and Anthony Romanucci said in a statement. . “It certainly raises the question of why the white officer involved in this brutal attack was shielded and shielded from the public eye, and to date, from adequate discipline and accountability.”
Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said information about disciplinary action taken against Hemphill was not immediately released because Hemphill had not been fired. The department usually does not release information about an officer’s punishment until after a department’s investigation into misconduct is concluded, Rudolph said.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis told The Associated Press in an interview that a “lack of supervision in this incident was a major problem.”
“When officers are working, you have to have at least one supervisor for each group or group of people,” Davis said. “Not just someone who is at the office doing the paperwork, someone who is actually embedded in that unit.”
Calls for more officers to be fired or charged have been loud and persistent from the Nichols family, their lawyers and community activists who have protested peacefully in Memphis since the video was released. The video referenced the arrest of George Floyd in 2020 and the officers’ failure to intervene.
Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the family will “continue to seek justice and get more officers arrested.”
“Questions were raised before the video was released, I raised those questions,” Wells said. “I just felt there were more than five officers out there. Now five were charged with murder because they were the main participants, but there were five or six other officers out there who did nothing to provide any assistance. They are therefore just as guilty as the officers who threw the punches.”
Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones said it appears police policies on rendering aid and de-escalation were violated.
“When everybody saw the video, we saw that you have multiple officers just standing around, when Mr. Nichols is in distress, it just paints a totally different picture,” Jones said
Jones said he believes more officers should be disciplined.
“At this point, what’s going to be helpful for this community is to see how quickly the police chief deals with those other officers now that everyone has seen the tape and knows that it wasn’t just five officers that were on the scene the entire scene. time,” Jones said.
The five fired officers and Hemphill were part of the so-called Scorpion unit, which targeted violent criminals in high-crime areas. Davis, the police chief, said on Saturday that the unit had been disbanded.
Nichols’ funeral service is scheduled for Wednesday at a Memphis church.