Police-community relations are in the spotlight following the police-brutality death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn. In this photo, a demonstrator flashes a peace sign at advancing officers following a protest against Donald Trump in Phoenix in 2017. Credit: David McNew / Getty Images
Florida’s police chiefs have denounced the actions by Memphis, Tenn., police officers that resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols following a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
Authorities in Memphis planned to release police bodycam footage of the attack Friday evening.
“Based on what we know, the actions and conduct of the officers involved were not in keeping with the high standards of conduct demanded by our profession,” Keith Touchberry, chief of police in Fellsmere, located in Indian River County, and president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, said in a written statement Thursday evening.
“We do know that the actions of these officers on that day are not representative of the true character and professionalism of the overwhelming majority of the dedicated law enforcement professionals serving their communities across our country,” Touchberry said.
Five Memphis Police Department Officers face criminal charges, including second-degree murder, for their alleged roles in the incident, according to CNN. Nichols, 29, who was Black, died three days later. All of the officers involved also are Black.
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has called their behavior “heinous, reckless, and inhumane.”
Tallahassee civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Nichols’ family, has viewed the footage, Fox News reported. “It is appalling. It is deplorable. It is heinous. It is violent,” Crump said.
He compared the video to that of the 1991 police beating of Rodney King, saying Nichols had been tased, pepper-sprayed and restrained.
Aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis haven’t responded yet to a request for comment. Neither had a spokesman for the Florida Sheriffs Association.
DeSantis’ reaction to the unrest that followed the police murder of George Floyd in 2020 was to denounce calls for police reform. He pushed through the Florida Legislature an “anti-riot” law that a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional, ruling that it would criminalize peaceful protest.
As recently as Thursday, DeSantis called for legislation to stave off reforms that would allow more criminal suspects to win release without paying cash bail. In his second inaugural address on Jan. 3, the governor vowed: “We will always remain a law-and-order state. We will always support law enforcement and we will always reject soft-on-crime policies that put our communities at risk.”
Here is the Touchberry statement in full:
“On behalf of the more than 1,300 law enforcement leaders and members of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, we offer our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Tyre Nichols. Mr. Nichol’s death was tragic and unnecessary.
“Law enforcement training and policies in Florida do not support what happened to Mr. Nichols. Our training directs officers to deescalate situations whenever possible and especially after a subject is in custody. Further, under Florida law officers are trained to intervene to stop unjustified use of force and render aid to the subject.
“We appreciate that there is an on-going investigation, and we trust that it will be thorough. We applaud the decisive action of Chief Cerelyn Davis who quickly moved to fire the five officers involved for ‘excessive use of force, duty to intervene, and duty to render aid.”
“Based on what we know, the actions and conduct of the officers involved were not in keeping with the high standards of conduct demanded by our profession. We do know that the actions of these officers on that day are not representative of the true character and professionalism of the overwhelming majority of the dedicated law enforcement professionals serving their communities across our country.
“As chiefs and members of the FPCA, we will continue to work with our community leaders and with our Committee on Accountability and Societal Change to ensure the dialogue is ongoing and open when events like the death of Mr. Nichols threaten to harm the trust we have in each other.
“The ultimate goal for all law enforcement leaders is a community that trusts us, that views us as the guardians of our communities, and works in partnership with us towards public safety goals. This trusting relationship needs constant care, and so we must continue working towards that goal in every community. We also need our communities to recognize that the misdeeds and criminal actions of officers in one location, do not define officers and departments across the country.”
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