The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened a civil rights investigation into the Memphis Police Department (MPD), citing concerns of excessive force against people already restrained in custody as well as often deadly encounters, including the murder of Tyre Nichols.
Kristen Clark, who leads the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, made the announcement on July 27 during a press conference in Memphis, Tennessee, and said that information studied by her division showed that the MPD might be taking an approach to policing that could be unlawful, according to FOX 13 News. One of the major concerns for the DOJ is what seems to be a disproportionate use of violence against Black people stopped for non-violent offenses, including traffic citations. MPD is also believed to be biased in how often unlawful stops, searches, and arrests are made on Black residents. “Community trust makes policing more effective and less dangerous for both officers and the people they protect. Pattern-or-practice investigations help build and maintain that trust by ensuring law enforcement agencies do their jobs lawfully. I welcome this opportunity to let the facts lead in what will be an ongoing and important discussion about civil rights in our city,” Clark said.
The investigation is federal; however, it will not coincide with any criminal investigations against the MPD.
Once the investigation is complete, the DOJ will issue an official report. If systemic violations have occurred, the division would work with the MPD to “effectively and sustainably remedy any unlawful practices” by way of a negotiated agreement, according to FOX 13 News. If the MPD fails to comply, the DOJ would have grounds to sue the department.
And though the death of Tyre Nichols is a separate criminal investigation into the Memphis PD, his murder is one the civil rights division is looking into as part of its overall case against the department. “I know this community is still hurting after the tragic death of Tyre Nichols,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “At the Justice Department, we are committed to using all our tools to help ensure that Memphis residents have a safe community and can trust in the actions of law enforcement. In addition to our pattern or practice investigation, we will continue to deliver technical assistance resources through CRI-TAC and our COPS Office, to help the city and Memphis PD address issues related to use of force, de-escalation, and specialized units in the more immediate term.”
Source: Black Enterprise