Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis has issued a plea to the community to remain peaceful ahead of the release of body cam footage of the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old black man who died three days after a traffic stop on Jan. 7.
Speaking during an address Wednesday evening, Davis described Nichols’ death as “heinous, reckless and inhumane,” and warned people not to react violently after seeing the footage. She said that the five officers and others involved in the incident “failed our community, and they failed the Nichols family.”
“In the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves,” she said. “I expect you to feel what the Nichols family feels. I expect you to feel outraged by the disregard for basic human rights as our police officers have taken an oath to do the opposite of what transpired on the video.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump also viewed the body camera footage with Nichols’ family and similarly described it as “appalling” and “heinous.” Davis acknowledged the video’s contents will likely provoke people to take action, but she discouraged them from acting violently. She called for “true responsible action and change,” and said that the investigation and release of the body cam footage are among the first steps for the police to regain its community standing.
“In our hurt and our outrage and our frustration, there is still work that needs to be done to build each other up to continue the momentum in improving our police and community relationships and partnerships,” she said.
Davis also urged citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, but added that “none of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens.”
“To show those who watch us now that this behavior is not what will define our community and this great city. This is not a reflection of the good work that many Memphis police officers do every day. What comes next is our defining moment. What we all do next can be that reflection of our character,” she said.
She concluded by saying that it is her “intent as a proactive measure” to conduct a complete and independent review of all of the Memphis Police Department’s specialized units and procedures to ensure they are adhered to in daily encounters with citizens.
“I am not wavering in my commitment to you to have a police force that is here to serve and protect you,” Davis said.