Tennessee Democrats to propose police reform legislation following death of Tyre Nichols
The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus plans to introduce new legislation during the 2023 General Assembly session to address police training statewide following the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols earlier this month.
State Reps. Joe Towns (D-Memphis), G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) and John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) held a press conference Saturday morning at AFSCME union headquarters at 485 Beale St. after the first night of protests following the late Friday public release of the video showing Memphis police officers pepper spraying, tasing and beating Nichols.
Hardaway called the moment “bittersweet” as the community mourns the loss of Nichols, but said, “We can be proud of the way Memphis rose to the occasion yesterday, last night and they found a way to do the peaceful protests.”
“They found a way to make their feelings known and in such a way that it makes me proud and makes all of Memphis proud, and gave leadership to the other cities and other states and other countries who have their eyes on us and looking to us to leadership and how we respond,” Hardaway said. “I’m so proud of our citizens, and I know that the family is proud that Memphis, Tennessee, that honored the memory of young Tyre Nichols with peaceful protest.”
More:When the officers are Black: Tyre Nichols' death raises tough questions about race in policing
More:Video shows police kicking, pepper spraying, beating Tyre Nichols after traffic stop
More:Protesters shut down I-55 bridge after video of police beating Tyre Nichols released
Protesters – demanding significant police reform – shut down the Interstate 55 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas on Friday night. The protest began shortly before footage of the events leading to Nichols’ death was released to the public.
Nichols, 29, died Jan. 10, three days after a traffic stop by MPD officers that precipitated what the department described as a "confrontation." Five officers have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression related to Nichols' death.
As demonstrators shut down a bridge in Memphis, protests and vigils were held in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Portland, Boston, Washington, D.C., and other large American cities.
What is some of the legislation Tennessee Democrats plan to propose?
Hardaway acknowledged Tennessee Democrats have multiple bills regarding police police reform they plan to file by Tuesday’s deadline.
Most of the bills Hardaway discussed Saturday focused on mental health care and evaluations for officers. One would establish annual mental health evaluations for officers. He also added they’re contemplating legislation for law enforcement officers to have “random” mental health checkups.
“We want to make sure when you’re hired that you’ve had a psychological evaluation and that you are suited for this job and the job is suited to you,” he said.
Hardaway also spoke about a possible bill that would focus on law enforcement officers switching from de-escalation techniques to nonescalations ones.
Clemons said, “It’s truly unfortunate that we would need legislate humanity in 2023.” He said other issues they seek to address on police reform include implicit bias training among police officials across the state.
“We have a long way to go to reach that mountaintop. We will continue to introduce legislative initiatives, and I will assisting my colleagues in this endeavor,” Clemons said. “You will see from Tennessee Democrats legislation to try to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future.”
Tennessee Democrats currently hold 24 of 99 seats in the state house where the Republicans hold a super majority. Towns said he is confident they can receive bipartisan support on future legislation because of the magnitude of the investigation.
“You would be hard pressed to look at this footage, see what happened to this young man and not try to do something,” Towns said.
Towns also said the state representatives would like to meet with Nichols’ family in the near future and potentially set up an education fund for his child.
“We know that (our) baby or babies need to be educated as such as y’all are, you wouldn’t have these jobs without a certain amount of education,” Towns said.
Omer Yusuf covers the Ford project in Haywood County, FedEx, tourism and banking for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached via email Omer.Yusuf@commercialappeal.com or followed on Twitter @OmerAYusuf.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Tyre Nichols death: Tennessee Democrats to propose new bills