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Tennessee NAACP pushes for law enforcement reform after the death of Tyre Nichols

“We are tired of seeing this movie, and in the words of our President, President Johnson, we are done dying,” says Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The memory of Tyre Nichols is sparking the demand for change in Memphis and across America.  

Following the release Friday of the video footage from the January 7th traffic stop, Tennessee members of the NAACP laid out their goals for law enforcement policy reform.

“We are tired of seeing this movie, and in the words of our President, President Johnson, we are done dying,” said Rev. Dr. Gina Stewart from the NAACP Religious Affairs Committee.

Throughout a Sunday news conference, members offered their support for the family of Tyre Nichols, and continued their push for justice. Five of the officers involved in the traffic stop were fired from MPD and indicted by a grand jury on charges - including second-degree murder, but the NAACP said there are still several more that need to be held accountable. (Monday, ABC24 learned a sixth officer was relieved of duty as well.)

“If you were an officer or a first responder and you sat there and watched this young man die, and you did nothing to help resuscitate him and you did nothing to give him aid, you are just as culpable as the people who beat him down and killed him,” said Van Turner, NAACP Memphis Branch President.

After seeing the video, Turner has been critical of the initial statement MPD made on January 8th regarding the traffic stop, adding the statement did not cover the severity of what went down the night Nichols was beaten.

“I think it was fabricated, that’s been something that has come up, it was generalized. They said a confrontation, well yeah there was a confrontation that you caused, so obviously these officers were trying to put it together. We saw them ‘Did y’all see him grab my gun? Everybody seen that.’ They were trying to make it seem like Tyre was confrontational, as if he fought back, and the man asked ‘What have I done wrong',” said Turner.

The Tennessee NAACP is pushing for legislation that will help address the current issues in police policies. One of their efforts this legislative session is the Tyre Nichols Criminal Justice Reform Act. The bill will be designed to enforce consequences on officers who fail to intervene when they see the law being broken. It’s expected to work in conjunction with other policies like Eight Can’t Wait.

“It’s not enough to have the executive order by the President, we want something that makes sure across the nation, these kinds of things are not happening,” said Gloria Sweet-Love, NAACP Tennessee State Conference President. 

Other demands include more community oversight, with NAACP leaders saying Memphis needs to develop a community board that has subpoena power. The NAACP also is calling for the end to qualified immunity, increased data collection on police encounters, no-knock warrants, and pushes for a standardization of comprehensive training requirements, and that MPD reveal all tactical units.

“The George Floyds, Tyre Nichols, we should not have to keep on learning new names,” said Sweet-Love.

The NAACP said it will have a version of the Tyre Nichols Criminal Justice Reform Act when it presents their agenda to Tennessee Legislators on February 14th. Sweet-Love said Congressman Steve Cohen is expected to help the organization push police reform on a national scale.

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