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What is a 'consent decree,' and why is it being considered in light of Gershun and Tyre's cases?

“22 years later, we have now managed to go backwards,” said Brice Timmons.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The death of Tyre Nichols and Gershun Freeman have sparked conversations of reform in Shelby County. Community leaders, including the local branch of the NAACP, are asking the Federal Government to get involved.

“22 years later, we have now managed to go backwards,” said Brice Timmons, a lawyer at Friday’s news conference.

One of the paths forward include people calling for two separate consent decrees — one for the Memphis Police Department in light of Nichols and one for the Shelby County Jail in light of Freeman.

"Given what we’ve seen in the past few weeks, that’s something that should be placed on the table," said Van Turner, President of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP. "That ultimately is not our decision. It’ll be the decision of the federal government and the Department of Justice. A request has been made, and we’ll see what the Department of Justice does.”

If the Department of Justice investigates and finds the two entities constitutionally deficient, a governing body would come in and work with city and county leaders to improve said conditions.

“You set standards and metrics for improvement — you put forth a timetable to meet those improvement goals, and once you do so, the oversight is pulled back,” Van Turner said.

How long the decree lasts would depend on how well the agencies rise to the occasion. Turner was a Shelby County Commissioner the last time a consent decree was issued in the county.  

This instance involved the Shelby County Juvenile Court back in 2012 and lasted for six years.

“They saw there were issues, and they came in; provided some management and oversight and outcomes improved,” Turner said.  

He adds that while there were improvements, there were still people, including himself, who wanted to continue the decree past when it ended in 2018.

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