According to an NBC News report, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith all had been Memphis Police Department officers for just a few years when the fatal beating of the 29-year-old father occurred on January 7. Bean and Haley in particular have only been on the force since August of 2020 — after the department lowered the education standards.
As Action 5 News reported, MPD recruits no longer needed an associate's degree or 54 college credit hours, and could just get by with only five years of work experience.
In 2021 and 2022, recruitment was struggling so badly that the department offered $15,000 signing bonuses. Last year, the department also reportedly lowered the fitness requirements, doing away with the timed physical ability test.
The department even offered waivers for felons to join the force, according to the New York Post.
Haley in particular has a troubled past that seems to have been overlooked by MPD in the hiring process. As NBC reports, he was accused of taking part in the beating of an inmate named Cordarlrius Sledge about eight years ago when he worked as a corrections officer for the Shelby County Corrections Department.
In a 2016 lawsuit filed in the US District Court for Western Tennessee, Haley was accused of punching Sledge in the face while another officer slammed him face-first into a sink.
"After that I blacked out," the inmate said in the suit, which was dismissed in 2018 after Sledge was unable to complete the paperwork due to being in federal custody.
A local news report from 2021 praised efforts by the department to recruit more "people of color," due to their purported likelihood to "use force far less frequently than white male officers."
Despite this, all five officers charged are black, as well as the victim.
While the other officers involved in the death of Nichols' were recruited prior to the drop in standards in and after 2020, none had been on the force for longer than six years.
Before the disturbing bodycam and surveillance footage of the altercation between the five officers and the victim was even released, the five suspects were fired from their positions on Jan. 20, after they were found to have violated department policy on the use of force.
On Thursday, they were formally charged with second-degree murder, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression and one count of aggravated assault.
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