(Headline USA) The speed with which five Memphis police officers were fired following the traffic stop of a man who later died in a hospital is unusual but could become more common, despite recent difficulties in hiring new officers.
The five Memphis Police Department officers were fired Friday, less than two weeks after the Jan. 7 arrest of Tyre Nichols, 29, Officials said the five were dismissed for excessive use of force, failure to intervene and failure to render aid.
It’s rare for a police department to act so quickly, said David Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. Investigations can sometimes go on for up to a year, he said.
“It never happens this quickly,” Thomas said.
One recent turning point has been the advent of police body cameras, which can be quickly reviewed, along with cellphone video taken by passersby, said Thomas, who served 20 years as a police officer in Michigan and Florida.
Typically before a firing, officials will determine if an officer has violated a department’s general orders, which set out the procedures and regulations officers are meant to follow, said Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University in Ohio.
“The seriousness of the job action is based on the severity of the violation,” said Oliver, who spent 28 years in law enforcement, 16 of them as a police chief, including as chief of the Cleveland Police Department.
Firing an officer is the most severe job action, Oliver said, suggesting that department officials feel confident they can support the decision.
“There is far more scrutiny of police today,” he said. “When I was in policing there was less of a likelihood that something a police officer was doing would be caught on video.”
Oliver added that many times videos will confirm police acted properly. “I would say that’s the majority of times,” he said.
While unusual, it’s not unheard of for a city to fire an officer before criminal charges are filed, but that’s not necessarily the end of the story, said Stephen Rushin, a Loyola University Chicago law school professor who has studied police contracts.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press