MEMPHIS, Tenn — Following the death of Tyre Nichols, state lawmakers representing the Memphis area are moving forward with new proposed legislation to reform police practices in Tennessee.
Senate Bill 1380, according to Senator Raumesh Akbari, already does a lot, but needs to be strengthened. The measure passed after the death of George Floyd.
The bill bans chokeholds and mandates law enforcement agencies develop a policy regarding de-escalation. It also requires a law enforcement officer who has direct knowledge of excessive use of force by another officer who violates state and federal law to report it as soon as possible. But as it stands now, that measure doesn't have enough teeth.
“It’s hard to legislate a cultural change," Akbari said. "But you can certainly create the conditions around punishment for use of force or for a failure to intervene or duty to render care and I'm not talking about losing their jobs. I’m talking about criminal charges.”
Akbari also mentioned she introduced the measures, not just because of the Tyre Nichols' incident, but also for anyone that has experienced police brutality previously.
"After George Floyd, Tennessee was one of the few states that adopted many of the '8 Can't Wait' legislation, around chokeholds, around duty to intervene, around use of force, but for me we need to strengthen those laws right. We need to actually have real criminal consequences if those are violated. I know that police have a heavy burden, but their job is to protect and serve, and, you know, we have to value all life."
The focus now is strengthening laws surrounding chokeholds, use of force by police officers, the duty to intervene, and what Tyre Nichols' family attorney Ben Crump calls “Tyre’s Law."
“It’s not just justice for one family," Crump said. "It's justice for all of us. That’s what RowVaugn [Tyre Nichols' mother] is praying for. She wants reform. She wants this “duty to intervene’ to become ‘Tyre’s Law.'"
According to state lawmakers, bills have been filed but the process of drafting amending, and voting on legislation is just beginning.
The senator warned it may be a long process.
“We want to get this right. We don’t want to rush," Akbari said. "We don’t want to be reactionary. We want to be proactive. And so, I think in the coming weeks you’ll see more of what that legislation will look like."
Senator Akbari also wants the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to better track use of force incidents and improved police training.