MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The U.S. Department of Justice has scheduled two public meetings so far to discuss its civil rights investigation into the Memphis Police Department.
The investigation comes more than six months after the traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. The DOJ announced the civil rights "pattern or practice" investigation into the Memphis Police Department and the City of Memphis on July 27, 2023.
How to talk to DOJ investigators
Wednesday, Aug. 30
- 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- National Civil Rights Museum
- 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Thursday, Aug. 31
- 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church
- 70 N. Bellevue Blvd., Memphis, TN 38104
The DOJ said everyone is welcome to attend. They ask those who wish to come to register at this link for the August 30th meeting at the National Civil Rights Museum. Those who have not registered will still be welcome at the door. ASL and Spanish interpretation will be available at both meetings.
The DOJ is also offering times for the public to walk-in an speak with them at local library branches, or email or call them with information.
Tues. Aug. 29
- North Branch Library
- 1192 Vollintine Ave.
Wed. Aug. 30
- East Shelby Library
- 7200 E Shelby Dr.
Thurs. Aug. 31
- Levi Library
- 3676 S 3rd St.
The DOJ's investigation
The D.O.J. said the investigation is not related to the Tyre Nichols case, however D.O.J. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke mentioned the 29-year-old during the announcement.
Clarke said the investigation will look into "patterns or practice" with MPD, looking into use of force, protocols on traffic stops, and unlawful stops and arrests. The investigation is a civil case, not criminal, Clarke said.
According to the D.O.J., data suggests MPD uses discriminatory practices with traffic stops, specifically targeting Black and brown people around the city, including the traffic stop on Jan. 7, 2023, that led to Tyre Nichols' death.
“The tragic death of Tyre Nichols created enormous pain in the Memphis community and across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department is launching this investigation to examine serious allegations that the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and discriminatory policing based on race, including a dangerously aggressive approach to traffic enforcement."
"We have a track record of working cooperatively with officials and rank and file officers and we expect the same here," Clarke said. "Trust is key for carrying out effective law enforcement."
Separate from their look into MPD's specialized units, this investigation will instead look at the police department as a whole. Clarke said investigators will ride along with Memphis police and speak with officers as part of the probe. She said the Justice Department told the police chief and mayor about the investigation, adding that they pledged to cooperate.
However, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he was “disappointed that my request was not granted by the Department of Justice to discuss this step before a decision was made to move down this path.”
"I know they discussed the need for such an action with many other individuals. I hope the remainder of the process is more forthright and inclusive than it has been so far,” Strickland said in an statement.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said officers are expected to follow their training and department policies.
“While the officers involved in the Tyre Nichols case demonstrated no regard for these tenets, I am appreciative of the MPD officers that continue to serve our city with integrity,” she said.
Shelby County District Attorney General Steve Mulroy issued the following statement:
“I’m pleased the DOJ is investigating civil rights practices within the MPD. While I’m sure most officers are people of good faith, we have systemic issues we need to address.
The Tyre Nichols incident was not a one-off, but suggests wider problems of culture. Only an outside investigation can restore the public confidence we need to get the community cooperating with law enforcement, which is the most important thing to bend the curve on crime. And only DOJ can provide the kind of thorough investigation into systemic practices that we need to restore public confidence.”
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who represent the family of Tyre Nichols, issued the following statement:
“The family of Tyre Nichols is grateful that the Department of Justice heard their cries for accountability and are opening this investigation. 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. 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.”
Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, told the Associated Press that he hopes the probe will lead to changes in the way police deal with Memphis citizens.
“We’re moving in the right direction, trying to get some justice,” Wells said.
The D.O.J. said they are opening a dialogue with the public and encourage those with relevant information about possible discriminatory practices to contact them via email at Community.Memphis@usdoj.gov or by phone at 888-473-3730.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.