Local law enforcement agencies react to police fatal beating of Tyre Nichols

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(ABC 6 News) – In the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of the Memphis Police Department, local law enforcement agencies are reacting to the release of the body camera footage saying what happened in Tennessee could have been prevented.

Many law enforcement officials have a message for the public: “The tragedy that happened in Tennessee is not indicative of our local law enforcement agencies and that there are a number of measures put in place to ensure this tragedy never happens here.”

“I was pretty appalled. What I watched was criminal conduct, not officers upholding the law,” said Freeborn County Sheriff Ryan Shea. “We’re disgusted by what we saw in the videos and that’s not representative of law enforcement I know and the law enforcement in Freeborn County.”

Law enforcement agencies across southeast Minnesota all echoing a similar message about the violent beating from five former Memphis police officers.

“We are saddened and disappointed something like this happened,” said Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson.

“Really disappointing that in late 2022 and early 2023, these are still problems we’re having with policing,” added Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley.

Sheriff Torgerson says law enforcement officers are constantly toeing a thin line in dangerous situations and when arresting suspects, but that type of situation here would “never get that far”.

“You know, that’s not allowed. That’s just not in our policies,” he explained.

Sheriff Torgerson says when the suspect is down and complying, all aggression tools, like tasers and batons, are put away.

“He [Nichols] was to a point where he was controlled, so then that stuff stops,” he added. “Officers have a duty to de-escalate the situation.”

Sheriff Shea of Freeborn County says that officers also have a duty to intervene.

“If you see another officer using excessive force beyond what’s necessary, that regardless of rank, if you’re there you have to step in and do something about it. You have to put a stop to it,” Sheriff Shea said.

While many people nationwide are calling for police reform for all, Chief Brinkley says metro departments are very different from those in rural communities.

“I think that just because of the very nature of it makes us more accountable to our communities too because nobody has to ask our names because people recognize us. Because they know us,” Chief Brinkley explained.

But the incident is shedding light on the importance of police training.

In Minnesota, all agencies abide by Peace Officer Standards and Training Board Policies, which includes a mandated number of hours for use of force training.

Olmsted County sheriff’s deputies train officers four times a year.

Other departments train annually. Some, like the Mason City PD and the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, hope to train more frequently in the future.

Chief Brinkley says that there are new measures the department is putting in place this year in order to expand training situations.

Many other departments issued statements on the incident.

“The incident involving Mr. Nichols is tragic and shocking to watch…Minnesota has implemented law enforcement reforms and continues to refine those reforms in the legislature. The Mower County Sheriff’s Office continues to adapt policy and training relating to issues such raised by this and other tragic outcomes from Law Enforcement encounters where excessive force was used in citizen encounters.”-Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik.

The death of Tyre Nichols is heart-breaking, and the officers’ actions were wrong on a multitude of levels. Their conduct was contrary to training, policy, law and basic humanity.

Police officers take an oath when they are sworn in, one that carries great responsibility. When an officer betrays that oath, we all suffer.

Rochester Police Department takes tremendous pride in how we treat those we have sworn to serve and protect. Supervisors hold officers to the highest standards, but perhaps more importantly, officers hold themselves to the highest standards.

All officers have body worn cameras. They receive ongoing training in de-escalation and are equipped with less-lethal options to increase the likelihood of stressful encounters ending with minimal interaction. Every use of force undergoes several layers of supervisory review. In the event an officer does engage in misconduct, there are systems in place to ensure the officer is held accountable.

As your chief law enforcement leader, I remain committed to providing our community with fair and impartial policing. We will continue to serve you with pride and professionalism.

Chief Jim Franklin, Rochester Police Department