By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) – The Memphis City Council on Tuesday approved a series of police reforms in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols following his beating by police during a Jan. 7 traffic stop, with more far-reaching measures under consideration.
The ordinances create an annual review of police training techniques, require police to use only marked vehicles for routine traffic stops, strengthen citizen review boards, and require more police data collection.
The death of Nichols, 29, an unarmed Black man, prompted outrage and calls for change. Nationwide, police have come under increasing pressure to alter their practices since the 2020 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, another African American who died at the hands of the police.
In the Nichols case, five officers, all Black, have been charged with second-degree murder.
Police yanked him from his car and immediately shouted vulgarity-laced orders and threatened him with bodily harm.
Officers went on to beat and kick Nichols, spray him with pepper spray and hit him with a baton on the streets near his Memphis home, as Nichols cried out for his mother.
The violence of the beating was revealed in four separate videos of the incident totaling about 67 minutes that the city released on Jan. 27.
Another 20 hours of video will be released on Wednesday, Memphis Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Sink told a city council committee earlier on Tuesday.
The ordinances approved on Tuesday passed a required third reading before the council, including one that mandates police use only marked patrol cars for routine traffic stops.
After that ordinance passed, reform supporters in the audience chanted, “Justice for Tyre!” Some officers in the Nichols case drove unmarked cars and formed part of a special unit that has since been disbanded.
Other measures passed would strengthen the role of citizen review boards, even though pending state legislation would strip power from such panels, potentially rendering the city’s action irrelevant.
A more far-reaching reform named the “Tyre Nichols Justice in Policing Ordinance” passed a first reading but needs to be heard by the council two more times to get approved. Those measures would ban racial profiling, require police to intervene when their colleagues use excessive force, and oblige police to offer assistance to suspects in danger or distress.
Even before the new rules, 13 officers came under investigation for their conduct in the Nichols chose, said Sink, city’s legal officer, who told the committee that the city’s investigation had concluded.
Seven of those 13 officers were fired, three were suspended, two had charges dismissed, and one resigned in lieu of termination, Sink said.
Of the five officers facing criminal charges, all of them pleaded not guilty and have been released on bail.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta)