Department of Justice Announces Review of Memphis Police Department’s Use of Force and De-escalation Policies, and a Separate Review of Specialized Units Across the Country

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
COPS Office Public Affairs


WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today announced it will be undertaking two important reviews: one related to the Memphis Police Department (MPD) and one that will examine the use of specialized units within law enforcement.

First, the COPS Office, through its Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC), will conduct a review of certain policies and practices of the Memphis Police Department. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis requested this review, which will cover policies, practices, training, data, and processes related to MPD’s use-of-force, de-escalation, and specialized units. At the conclusion of the review, the COPS Office will issue a public report outlining its findings and recommendations.

The COPS Office’s CRI-TAC initiative is led and supported by nine leading law enforcement stakeholder associations. CRI-TAC provides a wide array of technical assistance services using a “by the field, for the field” approach. Since its inception in 2017, the program has provided technical assistance for over 800 law enforcement engagements.

Separate from the Memphis review, the COPS Office will produce a guide for police chiefs and mayors across the country to help them assess the appropriateness of the use of specialized units as well as how to ensure necessary management and oversight of such units, including review of policies, tactics, training, supervision, accountability, and transparency.

“In the wake of Tyre Nichols’s tragic death, the Justice Department has heard from police chiefs across the country who are assessing the use of specialized units and, where used, appropriate management, oversight, and accountability for such units. The COPS Office guide on specialized units will be a critical resource for law enforcement, mayors, and community members committed to effective community policing that respects the dignity of community members and keeps people safe,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Department is also pleased to be able to fulfill Memphis’s request for technical assistance on the police department’s use of force and de-escalation policies, as well as the use of specialized units.”

“Providing technical assistance to law enforcement agencies so they can continue to improve their practices, while they also develop and maintain healthy relationships with the community, is at the heart of what we do at the COPS Office,” said Hugh T. Clements, Jr., Director of the COPS Office. “I know that this opportunity to work with MPD, as well as our examination of specialized units in law enforcement agencies across the country, will be important resources for both law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to organization for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has been appropriated more than $20 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to over 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 136,000 officers.