4 former Memphis officers indicted in Tyre Nichols death had previous reprimands, suspensions

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Four of the five former Memphis Police officers indicted for their role in the death of Tyre Nichols were suspended or received a written reprimands during their tenure with the department, with only one charged officer avoiding internal discipline during his tenure.

In personnel files obtained through a public records request by The Commercial Appeal, part of the USA TODAY Network, four officers were either reprimanded or suspended for their failure to report when they used physicality, failing to report alleged domestic violence, or for damages sustained to their squad cruisers.

The four former officers indicted who had either a reprimand or a suspension were Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, Jr., Justin Smith, and Emmitt Martin III. Tadarrius Bean, who was also fired and indicted, did not have any reprimands or suspensions in the records viewed by The Commercial Appeal.

Reviews of records found that the officers received little to-no reprimands as they made forceful arrests with no documentation and drove recklessly to scenes. In at least two cases, officers were praised, their actions described by MPD colleagues as one-off events for a good employee. It is unclear if the department required records to prove those assertions. 

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‘Top producer’

One summary from a hearing about a domestic violence call that went undocumented credited the police officer under review for being a “top producer.”

Haley was given a written reprimand in November 2021 after he failed to file a response to resistance form. In February 2021, a woman complained after he “grabbed a complainant by the arm and turned her around to be handcuffed as she resisted arrest,” the statement of charges said.

Memphis Police officers are required to complete a response to resistance form when “any part of the officer’s body [is used] to compel compliance,” according to department policies and procedures.

“Officer Haley advised that he understood the policy but had simply mistaken, in this case, as to the amount of force necessary to require a blue team entry,” the hearing summary read.

This combo of booking images provided by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office shows, from left, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith. The five former Memphis police officers have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the arrest and death of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop, records showed Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (Shelby County Sheriff's Office via AP) ORG XMIT: TNHO202

During the hearing, Memphis Police Lt. William Acred said Haley was “a hard-working officer [who] routinely makes good decisions” and that “he was sure that this was a limited event.”

A few months later, Haley was driving his cruiser, speeding in emergency mode, meaning the lights and siren were on, and lost control of the car as he made a turn. He hit the curb and a stop sign.

Haley said he was responding to another officer’s call for help as the other officer said he had a suspect at gunpoint. The internal charge was dismissed after the hearing, with the hearing officer citing minimal damage to the car.

More reprimands

Mills, Jr. was also given a written reprimand for not filing a response to resistance form after a March 2019 arrest. In the statement of charges, Mills, Jr. was accused of taking a woman police were trying to arrest to the ground to assist in handcuffing her.

He did not file the form after the arrest.

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“Officer Mills stated he was familiar with completing the response to resistance document in Blue Team, but he did not realize it applied to his actions in this cause,” the hearing summary read.

Mills, Jr. was also reprimanded in another hearing for rough or careless handling of equipment after his personal digital assistant was dropped and run over by another vehicle.

Martin III was suspended for three days without pay for not checking the back seat of his cruiser after leaving a shift. A silver revolver was found in the back seat.

He was later suspended for a day without pay after he didn’t take a report after responding to an alleged domestic violence call on Sept. 27, 2020. Officers are required to take a report of domestic violence calls per Memphis Police Department policy and state law.

In the hearing, Officer James Schmedes spoke on Martin III’s behalf.

“[Schmedes] advised that Officer Martin was one of the shift’s top producers,” the hearing summary said.

Smith received a two-day suspension in July 2021 after hitting another vehicle, causing it to spin out, and hit a third vehicle.

According to the statement of charges, Smith was driving an unmarked cruiser that was not in emergency mode when he hit the back end of a Ford F-150. That vehicle then spun out and hit the driver’s side of a Chevrolet Malibu.

Smith and the driver of the first vehicle were taken to Regional One Hospital in non-critical condition. The statement of charges does not mention the third driver’s condition.

The driver in the F-150 was cited for driving with a suspended license.

Blake Ballin, the attorney representing Mills, Jr., declined to comment. William Massey, the attorney retained by Martin III, did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The Memphis Police Department also did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

It is unknown if, or who, the other officers have retained for legal counsel.

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