February 1, 2023 7:00am

Tyre Nichols and the Memphis Police

Power Poll members "satisfied" with official response, less so with system

Photo of David Waters
Memphis, TN Correspondent
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As the fallout continues from the Jan. 7 police beating and subsequent death of Tyre Nichols, Power Poll Memphis members have mixed emotions about the city's police department and criminal justice system.

Members who responded to a special Power Poll conducted Jan. 30-31 are overwhelmingly satisfied with official actions taken to identify and charge the officers who were implicated.

But they expressed less overall confidence in Police Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis and the city's criminal justice system, especially after viewing the disturbing video that captured the deadly encounter.

More than two-thirds of members who responded said they viewed the video footage of events that occurred after members of the police department's SCORPION unit stopped Nichols's car in southeast Memphis late Jan. 7.

The video shows that Mr. Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, FedEx worker and father, was pulled from his car, threatened, pepper sprayed, chased, punched, kicked and beaten with a baton.

The official police report said Mr. Nichols was stopped because he was driving recklessly, refused "a lawful detention”, and fought officers on the scene.

But the video, captured by police body cams and street security cameras, shows otherwise. And Chief Davis has said there's no evidence Mr. Nichols was driving recklessly.

The five Memphis police officers involved in deadly beating were fired, arrested, and charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping, among other charges.

Two other police officers who were on the scene have been relieved of duty. Two sheriff's deputies who were on the scene have been suspended pending investigation. And three Memphis firefighters who were called to the scene have been fired.

In addition, the police department's 40-officer SCORPION unit has been permanently deactivated.

Seventy-one percent of members who responded said they were "extremely satisfied" with the actions taken Chief Davis and Shelby County Dist. Atty. Steve Mulroy. Another 25 percent said they were "somewhat satisfied." Only 3 percent said they were "dissatisfied."

But Power Poll members expressed less overall confidence in Chief Davis and the city's criminal justice system. Only 39 percent of Memphis members said they now have "more confidence" in Davis; 26 percent said they were "losing confidence"; and 28 percent said they "don't know or can't say." Only 7 percent expressed "no confidence" in Davis, who has held the position since 2021.

Overall, only 45 percent of members said they have "more confidence" in the city and county criminal justice system; another 42 percent said they have the "same low level of confidence" or "less confidence" in the system.

More than two-thirds of Power Poll respondents said they viewed the video footage of the events. Another two percent said they planned to view it. Seventeen percent said they had not viewed it, and 12 percent said they never will.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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