US Justice Dept opens civil rights probe of Memphis police

International |  IANS  | Published :

Washington, July 28 (IANS) The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has opened an investigation into the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department (MPD) to see whether there was a pattern of policing that violates civil rights.

The investigation was propelled by the death of Tyre Nichols, a n African-American man who died in January this year after being beaten by police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, reports Xinhua news agenct.

"The investigation will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by MPD. The investigation will focus on MPD's use of force and its stops, searches and arrests, as well as whether it engages in discriminatory policing," the DOJ said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The civil rights investigation is separate and independent from the federal criminal civil rights investigation of MPD officers related to the death of Nichols, it said.

This investigation is also separate and independent from the technical assistance being provided by the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. While the investigation is ongoing, the office will continue to provide technical assistance to MPD.

"The tragic death of Tyre Nichols created enormous pain in the Memphis community and across the country," US Attorney General Merrick Garland was quoted as saying on Thursday.

"The Justice Department is launching this investigation to examine serious allegations that the City of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and discriminatory policing based on race, including a dangerously aggressive approach to traffic enforcement."

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said there were enough grounds for such an investigation.

"Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information provided to us, there are grounds to open this investigation now. We have reviewed information that indicates that the Memphis Police Department may be using an approach to street enforcement that can result in violations of federal law, including racially discriminatory stops of Black people for minor violations," she said.

Body camera videos and surveillance footage from Nichols' arrest after a traffic stop, released after his death, triggered public outrage. 

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