EVANSTON, IL — The chief of the Evanston Police Department issued a statement Friday ahead of the release of videos of a deadly encounter between a Black motorist and police in Tennessee.
“Individuals who have seen the video describe it as reckless, appalling and inhumane,” Chief Schenita Stewart said.
Five fired Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression for their roles in the death of Tire Nichols.
Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker, died Jan. 10, three days after what authorities described as a brutal beating by police following a traffic stop. Each of the former officers charged in connection with his death — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — are Black.
Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis described the officers’ conduct as “heinous, reckless and inhumane.” She said other officers are being investigated for policy violations and pledged an independent review of her department’s specialized united, according to the Associated Press.
Stewart, who was sworn in as the first woman to become chief of Evanston police in October, reiterated the Evanston Police Department’s commitment to protecting everyone’s rights and partnering with the community in its public safety mission.
“A crisis of confidence is increasing in communities over police use of force, lack of transparency, and what is seen as overly aggressive law enforcement strategies,” Stewart said.
“These actions have upset our social fabric and undermined the confidence in and legitimacy of our police agencies and local governments,” the police chief added. “This has to change.”
Authorities planned to release the video Friday evening. Attorneys for the Nichols’ family compared to the 1991 video of the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police.
RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother, called for demonstrations over her son’s death to remain peaceful.
“I don’t want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that’s not what my son stood for,” Wells said at a vigil Thursday in Memphis. “And if you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.”
Chief Schenita Stewart’s complete Jan. 27 statement:
Highly publicized police-citizen encounters over the past few years have garnered the attention of the nation. The recent arrest of five Memphis Police officers for the beating and murder of Tire Nichols and the subsequent release of video of this incident will again spotlight police misconduct on a national level. Individuals who have seen the video describe it as reckless, appalling and inhumane.
I believe that the general mission of the police is to ensure the safety of the public, reduce crime, establish trust, and maintain the quality of life. In fulfilling this mission, we are responsible for protecting the constitutional rights of every person we encounter.
A crisis of confidence is increasing in communities over police use of force, lack of transparency, and what is seen as overly aggressive law enforcement strategies. These actions have upset our social fabric and undermined the confidence in and legitimacy of our police agencies and local governments. This has to change.
As chief of the Evanston Police Department, I would like to reiterate our department’s continued commitment to building trust, confidence and partnership with our community, and to protecting the rights of all individuals as we carry out our mission of ensuring public safety.
I am honored and privileged to work with the members of the Evanston Police Department and our entire community as we carry out this important work. Thank you for everything you do.
Chief Shenita Stewart