The Department of Justice has announced a pattern or practice investigation into the Memphis Police Department, six months after the death of Tyre Nichols.
Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke made the announcement.
"In January of this year, the nation witnessed the tragic death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police. City and police department leaders recognize the need to scrutinize the police department's practices to prevent such incidents from ever happening again," Clarke said.
But the investigation is much broader than the Nichols killing or the officers involved.
The DOJ says it's going to focus on three areas of concern: Unlawful stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing against Black residents; and excessive use of force.
"We received multiple reports of officers escalating encounters with community members resulting in excessive force. Our review indicates that even in a majority black city MPD's traffic enforcement may focus disproportionately on the Black community," Clarke said.
The DOJ has opened similar investigations across the country following high profile police violence: Breonna Taylor in Louisville, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Laquan McDonald in Chicago.
The DOJ recently wrapped up its investigations into the Louisville and Minneapolis police departments with the intention of putting in place a consent decree to implement changes.
The Memphis Police Department has been under fire since the death of Tyre Nichols.
Following a traffic stop, Nichols was dragged from his car and beaten in the street. He then fled on foot and when officers caught up to him, five different officers punched, kicked and beat Nichols.
He died three days later in a local hospital from blunt force head trauma. Nichols' death sparked nationwide protests and action on the local and federal level.
Five Memphis police officers and three fire department personnel were fired, the MPD's specialized SCORPION unit was disbanded, five officers were charged with second degree murder and the Department of Justice announced a review of the Memphis PD use-of-force policies.
"Community trust makes policing more effective and less dangerous for both officers and the people they protect. Citizens, including the people of this great city, deserve constitutional and lawful policing," U.S. Attorney Kevin G. Ritz of the Western District of Tennessee said.
Rodney Wells, Tyre Nichols' stepfather, told The Associated Press that Memphis is "moving in the right direction," and he hopes the probe will lead to change in the way police deal with Memphis citizens.
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