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Tyre Nichols death: Canadian police chiefs speak out

Canadian police chiefs on Friday condemned the death of a black man who was brutally beaten by police in a traffic stop in the United States and said the officers involved must be held accountable.

Condemnation of the actions leading to Tire Nichols’ death came as authorities in Memphis, Tennessee released video of what had happened.

Footage shows officers holding Nichols and repeatedly beating him while he cried out for his mother.

After the beating, officers walked around for minutes with Nichols propped against a car, then slumped onto the street.

Nichols died three days after the January 7 confrontation. The officers, all black, were charged with murder and other crimes Thursday.

Toronto Police Service Chief Myron Demkiw offered his sincere condolences to Nichols’ family and friends. He said the actions of Memphis officials would have a long-term impact on Toronto communities and would have a disproportionate impact on some members of the black community.

“I am deeply saddened by the murder of Tire Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee,” Demkiw said in a post on Twitter. “On behalf of the Toronto Police Service, I condemn the violent actions of the officers involved.”

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police described the circumstances of Nichols’ death as “horrific and deeply disturbing” and offered its condolences to his family.

“The duties of (officials) must always be carried out in a transparent and professional manner and uphold the high standards of the police profession,” the association said in a statement. “Every officer understands that they are responsible for their actions.”

The Ottawa Police Service said the death of Nichols and related tragedies are destabilizing communities and eroding trust in the police force across North America.

“Nichols’ death, like so many before him, is tragic,” Ottawa Police said. “We join the calls for justice and support the steps being taken to fully investigate the incident and hold individuals accountable.”

Chiefs of Peel Police, Windsor Police and Regina Police also issued statements condemning the actions of the officers charged in the death of Nichols.

Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said Nichols’ death was “deeply disturbing” and that his thoughts are with the man’s family and community.

Windsor Police Chief Jason Bellaire said the death of Nichols and similar events would damage “police credibility” worldwide and it would take police a long time to rebuild relationships and restore trust in the community.

He said his force will work with any community groups that want to plan peaceful protests in response to Nichols’ death.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray called Nichols’ death “tragic and unnecessary” in a video posted to Twitter.

Bray said he reached out to his city’s black community leaders to express his sympathy, noting that Nichols’ death caused “all kinds of heartbreak and trauma.”

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police said the video of Nichols being beaten by officers in Memphis was disturbing and the association was shaken by what it saw.

“What happened in Memphis, and the death of Tire Nichols, is a failure to uphold the basic human rights due to which every citizen is entitled,” the association said in a press release late Friday.

“Police officers take an oath to serve and protect, and as such we understand that the police as an institution will come under increased scrutiny in the event of a horrifying incident. We condemn the outrageous use of force against anyone in the community.”

The association said Tire’s death could be particularly poignant for the black communities he serves.

“We categorically condemn the actions that led to the senseless loss of human life.”

The Edmonton Police Service called Nichols’ death a tragedy and said what happened in Memphis in no way reflected policing.

“It is unavoidable that the five officers now charged with second-degree murder and other charges were on duty when they committed this act,” the service said in an email.

“EPS (Edmonton Police Service) supports the Memphis Police Department’s swift and decisive action in seeking justice for Mr. Nichols and his family.”

Given the likelihood of protests, Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis said she and other local officials decided it was best to release the video later in the day, after schools have been dismissed and people are home from work had come.

Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters about the “terrifying” nature of the video but pleaded for peaceful protests.

“I don’t want us to burn down our city and tear up the streets because that’s not what my son stood for,” she said. “If you are here for me and Tyre, you will protest peacefully.”

The officers are each charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, administrative misconduct, and administrative repression. According to court and prison documents, four of the five officers had posted bail and been released from custody Friday morning.

Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 15 to 60 years in prison under Tennessee law.

As a precaution, schools in the Memphis area canceled all after-class activities and postponed an event scheduled for Saturday morning. Other early closures included the city energy company’s community offices and the University of Memphis.

Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department guidelines. In addition, she said a “full and independent review” of the department’s specialized units was being carried out, without giving further details.

Two firefighters were also dismissed from duty over the arrest of Nichols.

— With files from The Associated Press.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 27, 2023.

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