Officers Charged in Nichols’ Death are Decertified

March 24, 2023

A Tennessee commission voted Friday to decertify three former Memphis police officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols, preventing them from working for any other law enforcement agencies within the state. 

The former officers—Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith—have been charged with second degree murder after 29-year-old Nichols suffered a beating amid what allegedly began as a traffic stop January 7 and died in a hospital three days later. Two other former officers, Tadarrius Bean and Desmond Mills Jr., have also been charged with murder in the incident, which was caught on video.

The three officers have been notified of their decertification by the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission and have 30 days to appeal or comply. Mills surrendered his certification, though he maintains his innocence, as do the others. 

Bean will have a decertification hearing at a later date, as will another officer who’s been disciplined but not criminally charged in the incident: Preston Hemphill, who drew his gun while approaching Nichols’ car on January 7. DeWayne Smith, a 25-year Memphis Police veteran who was the on-scene supervisor the night of January 7 but retired ahead of a disciplinary hearing to fire him also faces a future decertification hearing.

Amid an informal hearing Thursday, Memphis Police Department investigator Monique Williams recommended the three officers’ 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 get police jobs in other states. There is no federal decertification database. There is a privately-run National Decertification Index, but participation in it is voluntary.

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