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4 ex-Memphis police officers charged with Tyre Nichols' murder have been decertified

This combination of images provided by the Memphis Police Department shows (from left) former police officers Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. A Tennessee commission voted to decertify Haley, Martin and Smith. Mills surrendered his certification.
Memphis Police Department via AP
This combination of images provided by the Memphis Police Department shows (from left) former police officers Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. A Tennessee commission voted to decertify Haley, Martin and Smith. Mills surrendered his certification.

A Tennessee commission voted on Friday to decertify three former Memphis police officers charged with murder in the beating death of Tyre Nichols, preventing them from going to work at other Tennessee law enforcement agencies. The commission also approved one former officer's decision to surrender his certification.

The three former officers — Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — will be notified of the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST)'s decision and have 30 days to appeal or comply. Desmond Mills Jr. surrendered his certification but maintains his innocence, as do the other officers.

In an informal hearing Thursday, Memphis Police Department investigator Monique Williams recommended their decertification, saying they were "found to be in violation of personal conduct, truthfulness, neglect of duty, excessive unnecessary force" and other violations.

Most states have a decertification process, which prevents officers with a history of misconduct from going back to work in the jurisdiction that certified them. However, decertified officers can and do still get police jobs out of state. There is no federal decertification database, and while there is a privately run National Decertification Index, participation is voluntary.

Three other former officers investigated in the 29-year-old Black man's death — Tadarrius Bean, Preston Hemphill and Dewayne Smith — will have decertification hearings at a later date. Dewayne Smith and Hemphill have not been criminally charged.

The four decertified former officers plus Bean belonged to the now-deactivated SCORPION unit. After Nichols' death, all five were terminated and charged with second-degree murder, and all five entered not-guilty pleas.

Dewayne Smith, a lieutenant in the Memphis Police Department and supervisor of the SCORPION unit, was on scene when officers beat Nichols to death. He retired with full benefits less than a day before he was expected to be fired. The police department still requested his decertification, and he will be served notice for an upcoming hearing.

Nichols died on Jan. 10, three days after Memphis police stopped him for alleged reckless driving. Police said he fled the scene and was taken into custody after two confrontations with officers.

After his arrest, Nichols complained of shortness of breath, and he was taken to the hospital in critical condition after a brutal beating. Nichols' family said the beating left him unrecognizable.

Katie Riordan, a freelance contributor to member station WKNO, contributed reporting. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kaitlyn Radde
Kaitlyn Radde is an intern for the Graphics and Digital News desks, where she has covered everything from the midterm elections to child labor. Before coming to NPR, she covered education data at Chalkbeat and contributed data analysis to USA TODAY coverage of Black political representation and NCAA finances. She is a graduate of Indiana University.
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