Posted on March 19, 2024

Bill to Undo Memphis’ Traffic Stop Reforms After Tyre Nichols Death Headed to Governor’s Desk

Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise, Associated Press, March 14, 2024

Legislation designed to undo police traffic stop reforms set in place after the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by officers last year is now headed to Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s desk, despite emotional pleas to abandon the measure from Nichols’ family and accusations that the proposal is “extreme government overreach.”

For weeks, the Republican-controlled Tennessee Statehouse has remained steadfast in overturning an ordinance adopted by the Memphis city council, which included outlawing so-called pretextual traffic stops for minor violations like a broken taillight. The bill would apply statewide, prohibiting any local limits on any traffic stops when an officer observes or has reasonable suspicion that someone in the car has violated a local ordinance or state or federal law.

House Republicans approved the measure last week and Senate Republicans adopted that proposal Thursday with just the chambers’ six Democrats voting opposed.

“I pleaded with the sponsor to not run this,” said Sen. London Lamar, a Democrat from Memphis, whose district includes where Nichols was killed. “Because it’s a slap in the face. Not only for our city council, but all the local governing bodies in this state, because we’re telling them you are not smart enough to decide policies to help govern your own city.”


Yet even as numerous members inside the majority-white Tennessee Statehouse expressed shock and outrage over Nichols’ death at the time, many of those same lawmakers have largely criticized how Memphis — a majority Black city — has managed its crime rates and expressed distrust over the response from Black city leaders.

“If we don’t do this, we will further endanger our community,” said Sen. Brent Taylor, the Republican bill sponsor from Memphis.