INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders representing police agencies across Indiana are calling the actions of five Memphis police officers "despicable" after bodycam video was released Friday of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols died Jan. 10 from injuries he received in the beating, which occurred during a traffic stop three days earlier.
West Lafayette Chief of Police Troy Harris wrote a letter to the community calling the officers' actions "reprehensible, appalling, and criminal."
"Like so many of you, we have watched the video showing the violent beating of Tyre Nichols during an interaction with members of the Memphis Police Department. We found the actions of these officers reprehensible, appalling, and criminal. This behavior stands contrary to the values of policing and human decency," Harris said, adding that injustices like this destroy public trust in good officers and are a "betrayal and tear at the fabric of society."
The officers involved were fired last week after MPD said they were found to be "directly responsible for the physical abuse of Mr. Nichols.” They were identified as Demetrius Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr. and Justin Smith.
They were charged with murder in Nichols' death on Thursday, Jan. 26. By Friday morning, all of the officers had been released from jail after posting bail.
Harris asserted that there's no place in the department for brutality or abuse of power and that WLPD has systems in place to ensure that. He said he's always willing to talk about those systems and standards, "but today is not that day."
"Today our message to you is: We are sorry. We are sorry that a man lost his life at the hands of those who swore to protect him, we are sorry that this may cause you to cast doubt upon law enforcement officers, and we are sorry that we all must relive another senseless tragedy that should have never happened," Harris wrote.
He concluded with a plea, asking the community to not give up on the officers at WLPD.
"As your Chief of Police, I ask you not to give up on your officers. The men and women of the WLPD are some of the finest officers you will find across the entire country. They serve you with professionalism, excellence, and are willing to give their lives for you. We value the relationships we have built throughout our community and will continue to work hard to maintain your trust and strengthen our relationship," Harris said.
Harris' full letter can be read here.
Harris was among the many Indiana agencies to respond to the video. You can read how other area departments responded below.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office shared a letter from the Major County Sheriffs of America — an association of the 113 largest Sheriff's offices in the country — shortly after the city of Memphis released video of the assault.
The letter called the incident "horrifying" and said the MCSA found the "excessive use of force and lack of intervention by the officers deeply troubling."
The letter also echoed Harris' statement, saying that the video doesn't reflect the officers across the country who "uphold the norms and standards of our profession with integrity and honor each day."
IMPD Chief Randal Taylor issued a statement Friday night, shortly after the city of Memphis released video of the assault.
Clinton County Sheriff Rich Kelly and Frankfort Police Chief Scott Shoemaker released statements. Shoemaker said that said he and other police leaders "cannot be silent," adding that, "Bad officers, angry officers and burnt-out officers need to turn their badges in today. If not, police leadership needs to have the courage to take the badges away."
Kokomo Police Chief Douglas Stout shared the following statement on Wednesday:
"The recent and egregious acts of violence committed by the law enforcement officers in Memphis, are not only disgraceful, they are categorically not policing and display a lack of human decency. This incident is in complete opposition to everything we stand for within the Kokomo Police Department, and the greater law enforcement community. This is yet another tragedy that continues to compromise and erode the trust in law enforcement in communities across the country.
The fact remains that even though the officers responsible for this injustice have been terminated, and rightfully charged with criminal acts, the unlawful acts they committed will naturally continue to erase any advancements in law enforcement training and accountability, to improve trust in every department's respective community.
Preventive measures, like those we have implemented in the Kokomo Police Department through training and accountability, are at the forefront of our mission and are not just an afterthought when tragedies like this occur. I am proud that our officers have openly rejected this injustice and violence committed outside of Kokomo.
"We are 100% committed to having the right policies, procedures, training, and accountability processes in place to ensure what happened to Mr. Nichols never occurs in Kokomo. We will continue our commitment to equitable and constitutional policing, through a proactive approach to training. Training and open discussions, along with positive community engagement has continually improved our community goals of building the trust required to solve crimes and enforce laws safely for everyone involved."
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Nichols family."
Richmond Police Chief Michael Britt and Wayne County Sheriff Randy Retter both issued statements Friday night on behalf of their departments.