Another Tennessee deputy relieved of duty in use-of-force case

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office previously had fired two deputies because they were present when Memphis police officers beat Tyre Nichols, who died days later.

A sheriff’s deputy in Memphis has been relieved of duty for his alleged involvement in on-the-clock use of force, mirroring the fate of some officers on the city’s police force.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, an unidentified deputy from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is now off the job as the office launches an in-house probe.

“A sheriff’s deputy has been relieved of duty pending an administrative investigation into the use of force in a November 2022 arrest,” according to a statement released Monday, the Commercial Appeal reported. “Video of the encounter has been discovered on social media and an internal investigation is underway.”

Justice for Tyre Nichols
Protesters march down the street on Jan. 27 in Memphis, Tennessee, as authorities release police video depicting Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, whose death resulted in murder charges against five officers and the firing of others. On Monday, a Memphis county sheriff’s deputy was relieved of duty in another use-of-force case. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)

On Saturday, Jan. 28, the SCSO relieved two deputies of their duties because they were present when Memphis police officers beat Tyre Nichols, who died days later as a result of his injuries. Floyd Bonner, the Shelby County sheriff and prospective mayor of Memphis, claimed he discovered they were on site for the assault after viewing bodycam video footage made public by Memphis officials the day before.

Nichols, 29, a father and FedEx employee, screamed out in pain before collapsing limply against the side of a car as five Memphis police officers beat him with their feet, fists and a baton on Jan. 7 while others watched, The Associated Press previously reported.

While a simple intervention reportedly could have saved Nichols’ life, the five officers have since been arrested and charged with offenses that include second-degree murder. A sixth officer has since been fired, and another received a suspension.

Emergency medical technicians Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge, both former Memphis Fire Department employees, had their licenses suspended for failing to provide Nichols with critical care after the beating. This action is part of the authorities’ ongoing efforts to hold police officers and other first responders accountable for the violence.

Michelle Whitaker, who was a lieutenant in the fire department, also was fired, but AP reported her license wasn’t up for suspension on Friday.

Experts concur that officers who fail to prevent colleagues from bad behavior are motivated by peer pressure and fear of retribution in certain situations.

“They’re afraid of being ostracized,” said criminology professor emeritus and former police officer George Kirkham, according to AP. “You’ve got to depend on those guys. It’s the thin blue line. When you get out there and get in a jam, you’ve got nobody else to help you but other cops.”

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