MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis faith leaders are urging the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice to investigate the Memphis Police Department.
“We don’t believe that’s going to come from the inside, we don’t believe it’s going to come from the local authorities,” said Rev. Earle Fisher, Abyssinian Baptist Church.
Rev. Fisher and the Black Clergy Collective of Memphis are now petitioning the DOJ to conduct a “Pattern or Practice” investigation. When completing this type of investigation, the DOJ looks at how MPD operates to identify patterns or practices that violating of civil rights.
“When you look at the criminal justice system the way it’s been constituted, it’s disproportionately impacted black and brown people,” Rev. Fisher said.
The investigation would analyze:
- Harmful practices within MPD
- Arrest histories
- Detainment protocols
- Civil complaints and their resolutions
- The use of force
- Potential loopholes in polices
Rev. Fisher also hopes the investigation will reveal how Lt. DeWayne Smith was able to retire with benefits before potentially being fired for his involvement with Tyre Nichols’ traffic stop.
“We don’t think anybody should be involved in the death of an unarmed civilian as part of law enforcement, and still be able to keep their pension, that’s taxpayer money,” Fisher said, “This officer was able to manipulate and maneuver in a process and maintain all matters of retirement, benefits. Even though we know he was involved in inappropriate behavior, especially with showing up on a scene without a body cam, and you’re supposed to be a lieutenant?”
The pastor hopes this will eventually help create a police policy-oriented list of recommendations from the DOJ, helping drive a necessary next steps for change at MPD and other state detainment institutions like 201 Poplar.
“What we trust is going to happen is it’s going to validate the things we have been saying for the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years,” Rev. Fisher said. “This is what we’ve been trying to tell you, and these are the things we are trying to avoid. So if you need to hear it from Big Brother, then Big Brother needs to tell you.”
Similar investigations have been done by the DOJ surrounding the death of Breonna Taylor and Michael Brown.