Federal Charges Brought Against Former Memphis Detectives in Tyre Nichols Case
I am Kristen Clarke, leading the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. We have filed federal civil rights criminal charges against five former Memphis Police Department Detectives involved in the tragic death of Tyre Nichols. The charges include allegations of excessive use of force resulting in Nichols’ death, aiding and abetting each other in using excessive force, failure to intervene to stop excessive force, and failure to provide medical aid or alert emergency personnel to Nichols’ serious medical needs.
Violation of Basic Rights
As Americans, we are entitled to certain fundamental rights when interacting with law enforcement officers. These include the right to be free from unreasonable force, the right to have other officers intervene to prevent unlawful assault, and the right, while in police custody, to have urgent medical needs addressed appropriately and without deliberate indifference.
Enforcing Standards for Law Enforcement
These rights establish a code of conduct for police officers, which we enforce nationwide at the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. We are committed to upholding this standard for two key reasons: first, our duty to protect people’s constitutional rights, and second, our mission to ensure effective policing in our communities.
Building Public Trust
Effective policing hinges on public trust. While most officers carry out their duties with honesty and dedication, those who violate the Constitution, use excessive force, or disregard serious injuries undermine public trust. Our priority at the Civil Rights Division is to hold law enforcement accountable and restore the public’s faith in policing.
Since January 2021, we have initiated over 100 prosecutions involving violations of constitutional and legal rights by law enforcement officials, securing more than 86 convictions in the same period. We remain unwavering in our commitment to protect Americans from unlawful acts of police violence and to hold offenders accountable.
It’s important to note that the charges announced today are distinct from the Justice Department’s civil pattern or practice investigation into the Memphis Police Department, initiated in July. These charges are criminal, while the pattern or practice investigation is civil and will proceed independently of the criminal case.
Meeting with the Victim’s Family
Earlier today, I met with Tyre Nichols’ parents to express my condolences for their loss. My heart goes out to Tyre’s family and all those who knew and loved him. Tyre Nichols’ untimely death at 29 is a tragic loss, with unfulfilled potential and dreams. No one should have to bury a loved one due to police violence. The Justice Department remains committed to protecting Americans from excessive and unlawful use of force by officials acting under the color of law.
Federal prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division, working alongside U.S. Attorney Ritz and his team, as well as FBI agents in Memphis, have been diligently investigating this case. I extend my gratitude to this team for their dedicated work. Under our legal system, the defendants are presumed innocent, and the federal criminal process will now commence.
I reiterate our commitment to following the facts and the law, ensuring that our justice system lives up to its name. Thank you for your attention.
(Note: This text is a paraphrased version of Kristen Clarke’s prepared remarks on the federal charges against former Memphis Detectives in the Tyre Nichols case.)