The Department of Justice announced earlier this week that they’ll be opening up a civil rights probe of the Memphis Police Department.
Officially announced on Thursday, the Department plans to investigate the Memphis police to find whether there’s a pattern of systemic violations of the law or the Constitution, according to the report. The upcoming probe is the second investigation in recent months; in June, the DOJ announced a similar investigation of the Minneapolis police force following the death of George Floyd.
The investigation will specifically examine the MPD’s “usage of force as well as their stops, arrests and searches” to find discriminatory practices in their policing.
According to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, the probe was opened up based on both private and public information available to the DOJ. The information includes reports of officers using excessive force with BIPOC citizens and using force on people who are already in custody.
“We have reviewed information that indicates that the Memphis Police Department may be using an approach to street enforcement that can result in violations of federal law, including racially discriminatory stops of Black people for minor violations,” said Clarke per the release. “Unlawful policing undermines community trust, which is essential to public safety.”
The DOJ also announced that the probe is separate but related to the murder of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, who was fatally beaten by former MPD officers at a traffic stop on Jan. 7. After being hospitalized as a result of the attack by the police, he passed away three days later on Jan. 10.
Five Memphis police officers involved have already been charged with several felony counts, including second-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping; all five have pleaded not guilty in response and are currently under trial.
The Nichols family also took legal action against the city, the five police officers, two other officers, three Memphis Fire Department workers and the police chief. The ongoing $550 million lawsuit alleges that the city was negligent when hiring Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis and when they created the SCORPION unit.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who are representing the family in the case, released a statement following the announcement of the DOJ’s probe into the Memphis Police Department, conveying the family’s gratitude for the recent developments.
“Actions such as this will continue to show that the federal government will not let corruption within police departments take the lives of innocent Americans,” they said in an official statement. “It is our hope that the investigation by the DOJ, under the leadership of Attorney General Garland and Assistant Attorney General Clarke, will provide a transparent account of the abuses of power we have seen and continue to see in Memphis.”