Tyre Nichols’ family ‘appalled’ by proposed legislation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Monday night, Tennessee lawmakers held off on a vote that would change how traffic stops are handled. It comes one year after the death of Tyre Nichols, a Memphis man who was brutally beaten by police officers after a traffic stop.

Now, proposed legislation could make new policies put in place by the Memphis government null and void.

“I am just appalled at what the Republicans are trying to do in the state,” said Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, during a press conference alongside Democratic state leaders.

Nichols’ family asked state lawmakers to vote “no” on HB 1931.

The bill was scheduled for a vote on the House floor Monday night and would keep local governments from enacting any laws that restrict local police officers from making “necessary steps that are lawful under state and federal law to fulfill the law enforcement agency’s duties to prevent and detect crime and apprehend criminal offenders,” including minor traffic stops.

Essentially, it would make the ordinance passed in Memphis null and void.

“What we are hearing is not good. We don’t understand how a local municipality or local people can pass an ordinance and someone come in and try to take it away,” said RowVaughn Wells, Nichols’ mother.

In January 2023, Nichols was brutally beaten to death. The aftermath led to protests and calls for action. It also led to the City of Memphis outlawing traffic stops for minor offenses, like a broken tail light or improper display of a license plate.

The ordinances only apply to minor traffic offenses; police are still able to pull drivers over for speeding or reckless driving.

NewsNation affiliate WREG spoke with state Sen. Brent Taylor, R-Memphis, about the proposed legislation.

“We need to take the handcuffs off our police, so they can put the handcuffs on the criminals where they should be,” he told WREG.

Taylor said traffic stops for seemingly minor violations have resulted in major arrests of violent criminals, adding his bill has nothing to do with race.

“We need to get back to some sanity and all of the virtue signaling going on surrounding this ordinance and trying to say it’s going to hurt people of color and poor people,” Taylor said to WREG reporters. “The community at large is being hurt because we have a crime crisis.”

“They organized and rallied around our community, around just laws for our city council to pass that would ensure that things like pretextual traffic stops would not lead to incidents like the one that happened to their beloved son,” said state Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis. “What happened to him should never happen to anyone, and the grieving and the mourning that the Wells family endures and has endured has not only been about grief, it has been about transformation. They have worked tirelessly to make sure our community in Memphis is a better place.”

The bill is set to appear on Thursday’s House floor calendar. 

Tyre Nichols Death

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