Durbin does not rule out a federal investigation into the Memphis police department
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Sunday that he would not rule out a federal investigation into the Memphis Police Department, which has come under scrutiny after five of the department’s police officers were charged with the second-degree murder of Tyre Nichols.
“I would not rule that out,” he told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s “This Week” when asked whether there should be a federal investigation into the Memphis Police Department.
“But I always say that we have to be honest about this when it happens in Minnesota, when it happens in Tennessee, and it happens on the streets of Chicago,” he continued. “We’ve got to be very honest about it.”
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Kevin Ritz announced earlier this month that there would be a civil rights federal investigation into the incident, but not the entire department. President Biden said in a statement Friday that Nichols’ family deserves a “swift, full, and transparent investigation” and again called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would enact reforms to curb racial profiling and tie federal aid to officer conduct.
Nichols, a 29-year old Black man, was pulled over for alleged reckless driving on Jan. 7, where police officers pulled him out of his car and pushed him to the ground. Nichols ran away, but the officers caught up to him and beat him using batons, kicked and punched him and used pepper spray for three minutes, according to video footage released of the incident.
After more officers arrived on the scene, officials said, they waited another 20 minutes before getting Nichols medical care. Nichols died in the hospital three days after the encounter from the injuries.
Five Black officers were fired from the department and charged for second-degree murder in Nichols’ death.
Durbin said that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) should sit down again to revive efforts to pass police reform, but that that is not enough. He said that there needs to be more screening and training to help change the culture of police violence.
“By screening, by training, by accreditation, to up the game so that the people who have this responsibility to keep us safe, really are stable, and approaching this in a professional manner,” he said. “What we saw on the streets of Memphis was just inhumane and horrible. I don’t know what created this rage in these police officers, that they would congratulate themselves for beating a man to death.”
He said that there’s “prejudice” among some police officers who should not be on the force, and said Memphis has called into question whether more diversity in the ranks would help address this.
“There are good policemen out there risking their lives for us, but there are those who should not be on the force and are just not made for the job,” he said. “And we’ve seen their prejudice. One of the things we insisted on and work toward was diversity in the ranks, and yet Memphis has called that into question.”
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