A pair of Democratic state lawmakers intend to file police reform legislation ahead of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Tuesday filing deadline, the lawmakers said Saturday.
The announcement comes the morning after officials released video of Tyre Nichols’ deadly police encounter.
The bills will seek to address mental health care for law enforcement officers, hiring, training, discipline practices and other topics, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, who represents a portion of Memphis and Shelby County, said.
Rep. Joe Towns Jr., who also represents a portion of Memphis, said legislation could pass through the state house as early as April or May.
While Democrats hold the minority with 24 representatives compared to the Republican majority of 99 representatives, Towns said this legislation is not partisan and should pass on both sides of the legislature.
“You would be hard-pressed to look at this footage (of Tyre Nichols) and see what happened to that young man, OK, and not want to do something. If a dog in this county was beaten like that, what the hell would happen?” Towns said.
Hardaway addressed some of the unanswered questions remaining after watching the video of Nichols’ violent traffic stop and beating.
“It makes no sense to have an elite, supposedly elite unit, on the streets, and yet we can’t figure out who that (SCORPION) unit answers to. How was a car chase initiated when the protocols in nearly every law enforcement agency in the nation demands that you go up the ranks and notify your superior that you’re participating, or about to participate in a car chase?” Hardaway said.
The lawmaker said he thinks there’s more to the story, and that the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County deserve to know the “whole story as soon as possible.”
“You can’t have an effective law enforcement agency operating in Memphis, Tennessee, and Shelby County, unless you have the trust of Memphians and Shelby Countians,” Hardaway said. “You can’t gain the trust of Memphians and Shelby Countians unless you’re truthful, and you can’t be truthful if you’re not transparent.”
Both Hardaway and Towns praised the peaceful nature of local protests Friday night, which is what Nichols’ mother asked for ahead of the video release.