The rapid firing of five Memphis police officers following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols is unusual according to some experts in law enforcement practices, The Associated Press reported.
“It’s rare for a police department to act so quickly,” said David Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University and former police officer. “It never happens this quickly.”
Officers Taddarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith were all fired less than two weeks after the Nichols arrest. All five are Black, as was Nichols.
Nichols was initially stopped and arrested for reckless driving. After attempting to run and being confronted by officers, Nichols complained of shortness of breath. He was taken to a hospital where he died three days later.
Officials said that the officers were dismissed for their excessive use of force and failure to render aid. Body camera footage of the incident has not been released; however, relatives of Nichols are pushing for its release.
“In the old days, you’d have the officer’s word,” Thomas said. “If the victim were still alive, you’d have their testimony. If someone died, you’d have the examiner’s report. With body cameras, the evidence is right there.”
Body cameras can unveil the entire story if they are working for the full duration of an incident. However, officers may forget to turn on their camera or intentionally turn them off, AP reported.
According to the AP, officials will usually determine if the involved officers have violated department policy prior to termination.
“The seriousness of the job action is based on the severity of the violation,” said Patrick Oliver, director of Cedarville University’s criminal justice program and 28-year veteran of law enforcement. “There is far more scrutiny of police today.”
“In many agencies, the initial decision to fire an officer begins a lengthy appellate process that can take months to complete,” Oliver said.
A civil rights investigation was opened by the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the incident. Additionally, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is assessing the use of force by the officers, The AP reported.