Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said Wednesday that his officers’ treatment of 29-year-old Tire Nichols, who died three days after a traffic stop, was a “failure of basic humanity.”
Nichols, who was Black, died on Jan. 10, just days after he was pulled over for reckless driving. He fled the scene of the traffic stop but was eventually arrested after what police called two “clashes” with officers.
Authorities said Nichols complained of “shortness of breath” following his arrest and was taken to hospital in critical condition. Nichols’ family said police beat him so severely that he was unrecognizable.
Five Memphis Police officers, all black, and two Memphis Fire Department employees were fired as a result of the incident.
The following is an excerpt from Davis’ statement:
CERELYN DAVIS: In light of the horrific circumstances surrounding the death of Tire Nichols, it absolutely falls on me, your boss, to address the state of what the Memphis Police Department is doing, has done, and will continue to do to advance research truth in this tragic loss – making sure we communicate honestly and transparently and that there is absolute responsibility for those responsible for Tiro’s death.
These officers were held directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols. In conjunction with that investigation, other MPD officials are still under investigation for violations of department policies. Some infractions are less serious than others. As this investigation and other outside investigations continue, I pledge the full and complete cooperation of the Memphis Police Department with the Justice Department, the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office in determining the full scope of events contributing to the death of Tire Nichols.
In addition to being your Chief of Police, I am a citizen of this community that we share. I am a mother. I am a caring human being who wants the best for all of us. This is not just a professional failure. This is a failure of basic humanity towards another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane. And in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the next few days, you will see it for yourself.
I expect you to hear what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outrage at the contempt for basic human rights, as our police officers have sworn to do the opposite of what transpired in the video. I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results. But we must ensure that our community is safe in this process. None of this is a calling card to incite violence or destruction of our community or against our citizens.
In our grief, in our outrage and frustration, there is still work to be done to empower each other to continue the momentum of improving our relationships and partnerships with police and the community, to show those watching now that this behavior is not what will define our community and our great city.