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Memphis council suspends extra police reforms after protests


People attend a vigil at the intersection of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Cove, where Nichols was beaten by Memphis Police officers, in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S. January 30, 2023. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer

Memphis’ city council voted on Tuesday to indefinitely postpone extra police reforms in response to Tyre Nichols’ beating death after protests the proposals watered down ordinances passed in March.

The vote followed weeks of debate on what more Memphis’ police should do to prevent a repetition of the unarmed Black man’s death at the hands of five officers during a Jan. 7 traffic stop.

Police reform advocates said the new legislation, which would replace previous ordinances and was backed by the city attorney and police chief, failed to require measures like independent investigations on use of force that were created by the Marchordinances.

“It is in the best interest to allow previous ordinances on criminal justice reform advocated for by Council members and constituency groups to stand alone,” Council Vice Chair JB Smiley told the council.

Audience members cheered and chanted “Justice for Tyre” after the council approved Smiley’s motion to indefinitely table consideration of the proposed reforms.

The death of Nichols, 29, prompted outrage and calls for change. Nationwide, police have come under increasing pressure to alter their practices since the 2020 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, another African American who died at the hands of the police.

In the Nichols case, the five officers, all Black, have been charged with second-degree murder.

The March 7 ordinances created an annual review of police training techniques, required police to use only marked vehicles for routine traffic stops, strengthened citizen review boards, and required more police data collection.

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