Tyre Nichols

Following the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee at the hands of five police officers who have since been fired and charged with murder, regional law enforcement agencies have released statements. 

Five officers pulled over 29-year-old Tyre Nichols on January 7. He was severely beaten in the traffic stop and died in the hospital three days later. According to NBC News, an official cause of death has not yet been released, but a forensic pathologist’s preliminary findings said Nichols had “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” 

The death is being investigated and five officers have been charged with second-degree murder and numerous other charges, but no official narrative has been released, according to NBC News. Nichols’ family requested to see bodycam footage from the traffic stop; the footage was released January 27. It shows the five officers kick, punch, tase, pepper spray and otherwise beat the man for three minutes. 

Nichols did not receive medical attention for about 20 minutes, according to the Associated Press, and the five officers celebrated after the beating. While numerous investigations are underway, outrage over Nichols’ death is demonstrated in protests across the country. 

Sheriff Tom Croskrey released a statement on behalf of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office: 

“Considering the recent events which occurred in Memphis, Tennessee, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office would like to reassure our community of the quality and pride we take in our deputies. Our regional partners share these high standards when hiring and training their law enforcement officers…

“To support our officers and community, it’s important to provide transparency and quality investigations. As such, we have body worn cameras, in-car cameras, updated our policies and procedures, and participate in the Special Investigations Unit…

“We recognize that our deputies and officers constantly face situations that force them to make split second decisions. We provide our deputies with advanced training to help them make the best decisions possible during these types of situations while following the Mission, Vision, and Values of the sheriff’s office. 

“As a citizen I have enjoyed living in the Tri-Cities for over 30 years and it has been a great place to raise my family. As the Sheriff of Benton County, it is my duty to protect this community. I have a high appreciation for all law enforcement, and I am also committed to maintain the highest standards to ensure my office delivers the level of service and protection that this community deserves.” 

The Chief of the College Place Police Department, Troy Tomaras, released a statement to the College Place Community just after hearing about the death, saying in part: 

“Please know that my officer and I are horrified by this news. We know public trust is fragile and are frustrated by the actions of these officers whose actions have tarnished our profession. Our officers who serve you and the community of College Place are committed to our mission, vision, values and goals. 

“The College Place Police Department is a fully accredited agency with strong accountability and oversight. We are committed to training, de-escalation tactics and partnerships with whom we serve to build a strong resilient community. As Chief, I pledge to you that each member of this department inculcates courage, commitment, community and character in their daily operations through open and honest cooperation, service, respect, diversity and inclusion. 

“Our prayers are with the family of the victim, Tyre Nichols. It is my hope that the indictment of these five former officers delivers the family some justice. Although, I know it will not replace their loss.” 

The Ellensburg Police Department posted a statement on Facebook:

"The Ellensburg Police Department shares the emotions many of you are having today following the death of Tyre Nichols. The actions of the involved Memphis Police Officers fills us with anger, sorrow and pain. We too want justice for Tyre and the involved officers to be held criminally accountable for their actions and inactions." 

Sheriff Clay Myers released a statement on behalf of the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office on January 27: 

"Tonight, many of us watched the video evidence of the beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police Department Officers. Mr. Nichols' death appears to be the result of a terrible abuse of the authority and trust invested in law enforcement. From the information available, including the video released tonight, it appears those officers violated the policies of their agency; the laws of their state; the precepts of their training; and Mr. Nichols' constitutional rights. We mourn with Mr. Nichols' family and the community of Memphis, and we pray with them that justified anger over his death won't lead to more people getting hurt.

"We're grateful that MPD acted swiftly to investigated and dismiss the involved officers and is cooperating fully with the related criminal investigation.

"Kittitas County is a long way from Memphis; but tonight, it's no comfort to say, 'It didn't happen here.' Every law enforcement agency given the same authority and trust that was betrayed in this case must look to its own house. We must and will examine our policies and habits, our training and oversight, our fundamental commitment to the value of human rights, human dignity, and human life. We must and will recommit ourselves, as we do every time we pin on the badge, to embody the highest moral and humanitarian standards as we serve and protect our community. 

"The violence and indifference to human life seen in this case have no place in law enforcement. Kittitas County Deputies and other law enforcement in Kittitas County don't work this way, and we will remain vigilant to prevent the abuse of the authority and trust given us." 

In the first part of his February letter to the community, Chief Matthew Murray commented on what he subtitled as the "Memphis Police Atrocity." 

"On January 7, 2023, five members of the Memphis Police Department's SCORPION Unit (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods) conducted a traffic stop on Tyre Nichols for driving the wrong way down a street. What followed can only be described as a horrific act of violence. Officers repeatedly punched, kicked, and struck Mr. Nichols with batons. They threatened him, cursed at him, and caused injuries so severe that Mr. Nichols died three days later. 

"Most of you are likely aware that the officers involved in this incident were quickly terminated and have been arrested and charged with murder. The Memphis Police Department has also disbanded the SCORPION Unit. 

"Let me start by saying that I find the entire incident repugnant. There are no words strong enough to effectively denounce what these murder suspects did to Mr. Nichols. 

"But I want to add a different perspective to this national conversation. What those officers did was against policy, it was against the law, and it was voluntarily recorded by the officers engaged in the criminal acts. The fact that the officers were terminated for policy violations and arrested for murder in very short order demonstrates that policy and law banning this type of action was already in place. Presumably, all of the officers were trained on both policy and the law. 

"Further, the Memphis Police Body Worn (and in-car camera) policy specifically requires officers to activate their cameras (in other words, they do not record until the officers turn them on) and 'shall record all law-enforcement encounters and activities.' So, the officers obviously knew their actions were being recorded because they had to activate their cameras and most of us have seen the resulting video. 

"I write all of this because after horrific events like this occur, there is a cry for new legislation, tougher policies, mandatory body-worn camera programs, and better training. Other than Memphis' training (which I am not familiar with), all of these things were in place. And it didn't stop the officers from engaging in the behavior. 

"After nearly thirty-four years in policing (most in a major American city), what I can say with certainty is that what happened is a result of organizational culture. I cannot speak to the culture of the Memphis Police Department as a whole, but when (at least) five officers collectively engage in wanton behavior, and are all part of one team, there is at least a unit culture that accepts malfeasance. In my experience, this is typically related to the erroneous concept that 'the end justifies the means.'

"My previous boss and mentor, Chief RC White, used to say. 'Culture eats policy for lunch". I wholeheartedly agree. So the real answer to ensure that incidents like this do not occur is to create a culture that will not abide bad behavior. Just as the existence of a culture that tolerates misconduct is a product of poor supervision and leadership, highly ethical cultures are a result of intentional leadership and quality supervision with both accountability for poor behavior and praise for excellence.

"I cannot guarantee that a single officer will not ever engage in misconduct, including inappropriate force. What I am very comfortable reporting to you is that I cannot fathom a circumstance where five Yakima police officers would engage in such acts in unison and then write fictional reports as was done in Memphis. That is not accepted in our culture. If an officer does use inappropriate force, they will be disciplined appropriately as a result.

"The new mission statement (established in 2019) for the Yakima Police Department only contains two elements: reducing violent crime and providing exceptional customer service. Since 2019, misconduct allegations against officers have been reduced by 76%. That is a remarkably achievement, and I credit the professional officers of our department, the supervisors who take their roles seriously, and the leadership team which has set the tone and created an ethical culture. In 2022, there were fourteen formal complaints (not including ten traffic collisions). Of the fourteen allegations, ten (71%) were a result of a member of the department bringing conduct to the attention of management. That is a culture of accountability!

"With the significant reductions in violent crime, it is a testament that both parts of our mission can be effectively and simultaneously accomplished." 

Governor Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) tweeted. 

He was joined by the Oregon Governor, Tina Kotek. 

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also tweeted. 

"Like so many Americans, I am disgusted and outraged by the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols. I stand with his family and community in demanding that the officers responsible for his death are held accountable.

"While justice for Tyre is crucial, his murder is a symptom of the deeply broken policing system in our country. Congress must move immediately to pass the Justice in Policing Act to end brutal violence like this atrocity inflicted upon Black Americans by law enforcement." 

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) also took to Twitter.

We have checked for other responses from regional organizations and legislators to include. Should more be released, we will update this article.