DOJ Investigating Memphis Police Dept. After Beating Death

( — The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department last week opened a federal investigation into a possible “pattern or practice” of civil rights violations by the city of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department, CBS News reported.

In a press conference last Thursday, Assistant Attorney General Kirsten Clarke of the Civil Rights Division said the investigation will determine if there is a “pattern or practice of conduct” violating the Constitution or federal civil rights law.

While the investigation comes less than 7 months after the beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police, Clarke said the investigation was not prompted by a “single incident or event.” Instead, the decision to open an investigation was made based on the results of interviews with community members and residents who reported multiple incidents involving police officers.

According to Clarke, there were reports that Memphis police “used force punitively” when confronted by behavior “they perceived to be insolent.” She said there were also reports of officers using force against those who were already in custody or restrained.

Based on its initial review, Clarke said the Civil Rights division found that the Memphis police disproportionately target black residents in traffic enforcement, despite the city being majority black. She said blacks are more likely to receive citations for traffic violations including broken taillights or tinted windows.

The Civil Rights Division’s investigation will focus on three central issues – if the police make unlawful searches, stops, and arrests, if they engage in excessive use of force, and if they use racially discriminatory policing toward black residents.

Clarke cited the beating death of Tyre Nichols as just one example of the pattern of conduct of the Memphis police.

Nichols, 29, was beaten by officers in January and later died of blunt force trauma to his head. The Shelby County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and five officers were charged with murder in the case.

This investigation is the ninth such Justice Department probe into law enforcement opened by the Biden administration.

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