The US Justice Department has opened a civil probe into the city of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department (MPD) in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols earlier this year.
The department said in a release that the investigation’s primary objective is to determine whether there are any systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by the MPD.
The probe will specifically target the MPD’s use of force, stops, searches and arrests and will also assess whether the department is involved in “discriminatory policing” practices.
“The tragic death of Tyre Nichols created enormous pain in the Memphis community and across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick 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,” he said.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division said at a news conference that the probe has a “different purpose” than the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) review.
“This federal civil rights investigation will examine whether police violated the Constitution or federal civil rights laws in a systemic way,” Clarke said.
Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was brutally beaten by several Memphis officers on Jan. 7 during a traffic stop and succumbed to his injuries three days later. The official autopsy report revealed that he died from brain injuries caused by blunt force trauma.
In response to the incident, seven Memphis police officers were dismissed from their positions due to their involvement in the arrest. Additionally, five of the officers have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with his death.