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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Thirteen Memphis officers could end up being disciplined in connection with the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols, officials said Tuesday, as city council members expressed frustration during a meeting with the police and fire chiefs for not moving quickly on policy reforms following the brutal beating.
Six officers already have been fired and one more has been relieved of duty after Nichols was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation and beaten by Memphis police. Prosecutors say the Jan. 7 arrest, which was captured on police video cameras, led to Nichols’ death three days later.
Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Sink told the council that the number of officers disciplined for policy violations could rise to 13. Police spokesperson Karen Rudolph said six officers whose involvement has not been publicly disclosed could face administrative charges.
Rudolph stressed that an internal police investigation remains ongoing, and the number of officers disciplined could change.
Of those who have been fired, five have been charged with second-degree murder and other criminal offenses in the case of Nichols, a Black man whose death has led to calls for police reform in Memphis and around the country.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said during the council meeting that besides the internal investigation, there is also an ongoing assessment of the department’s specialized police units. The five charged officers were part of the Scorpion unit, a crime-suppression team that has been disbanded.
Sink said the city could release more information about officer discipline by the end of next week, following administrative hearings. More video of the arrest also will be released, Sink said.
Video already made public showed officers punching, kicking, pepper-spraying and using a baton against Nichols, who had fled after being hit with a stun gun at a traffic stop. Afterward, multiple officers stood around and chatted as he sat limply against a car.
“We will be prepared to upload onto a website all of the footage, all of the decisions, the entirety of the file,” Sink said.
Davis and fire chief Gina Sweat were called before the council to discuss policy changes or reforms put in place since Nichols’ arrest and death. But their presentations included procedures that were planned or in place previously.
Davis cited past reviews of police procedures; changes in training, leadership, recruitment and career development; data disclosures; adding more supervisors; and policy reforms including duty to intervene and render aid which were enacted after the death of George Floyd.
That did not satisfy council members who were expecting to hear about changes since Nichols’ arrest.
“I listened to the presentation as patiently as I could, and I heard a lot about discussions and conversations,” council member JB Smiley Jr. said.
”We’re 30 days out and I haven’t heard anything specifically to address” policy changes, Smiley said.
Smiley then asked Davis what went wrong on Jan. 7.
“A lot went wrong on Jan. 7,” Davis said.
“So the reason I asked that question is because what I wanted to hear today is, ‘This is what went wrong, this is what we’ve done to address these issues,” Smiley said. “I didn’t hear that today.”
The council discussed proposed city ordinances related to police reforms later Tuesday, including one to establish a procedure for the department to conduct an annual independent review of the Police Training Academy and another for an independent review process of instances of excessive, unnecessary or deadly use of force.
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