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Tennessee commission recommends decertification of former Memphis police officers charged in Tyre Nichols’ death

CNN 3/24/2023 Nick Valencia

A Tennessee commission is recommending that three former Memphis, Tennessee, police officers involved in the death of Tyre Nichols be decertified from working in law enforcement in the state.

The Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission, which is responsible for training and enforcing standards for all local police departments in the state, on Friday approved and stamped the recommendation of decertification Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith.

The three men were recommended to be decertified during an informal hearing on Thursday. On Friday, the entire commission held a procedural vote on the matter, a POST spokesman told CNN.

Haley, Martin and Smith have 30 days to appeal or comply with the order.

A fourth former officer, Desmond Mills Jr., who voluntarily surrendered his license cannot appeal and will no longer be allowed to work in law enforcement in the state of Tennessee effective immediately, the spokesman said.

The decision comes almost two months after Martin, Smith, Haley, Mills and Tadarrius Bean were charged with second-degree murder in Nichols’ death. The five have pleaded not guilty.

The four men decertified – along with others – were terminated from the Memphis Police Department in January after the death of Nichols, who was repeatedly punched and kicked by police officers following a traffic stop and brief foot chase January 7. He was hospitalized and died three days later.

Haley “was found to be in violation of personal conduct, truthfulness, neglect of duty, excessive unnecessary force, compliance with regulations to with body worn camera, and information concerning police business,” Memphis Police Department investigator Monique Williams told the commission board, while recommending Haley’s decertification.

“In the matter of Emmitt Martin and Justin Smith, in addition to the same violations as Haley, Martin and Smith were also found to be in violation of duty to intervene and reporting improper conduct during an internal investigation,” Williams said.

Attorneys for the three former officers had asked the commission to place their decertification in pending status. The commission agreed on the condition the attorneys appear in person at Thursday’s hearing. None of the three men nor their attorneys were present for the hearing.

The commission also heard a decertification request for former officer DeWayne Smith. Smith was the senior officer on the scene the night Nichols died and is accused of not taking charge of the situation. Smith has not been charged criminally.

Because former lieutenant Smith had retired prior to being terminated, there was confusion over a technicality as to whether Memphis police could decertify Smith.

Decertification proceedings for Smith, Bean and Preston Hemphill “will be taken up at a future board meeting,” according to a spokesman for the commission.

Hemphill was fired from the department on February 4.

Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis sent a request to the commission for the decertification of the five former Memphis police officers charged in the death of Nichols in February.

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