Memphis incident spurs NAACP body camera request

LIMA — Using the beating death earlier this month in Memphis, Tennessee, of a motorist at the hands of police as a backdrop to fortify its call for the Allen County Sheriff’s Office to equip deputies with body cameras, the Lima unit of the NAACP on Monday reported it has reached out to the office of Gov. Mike DeWine for assistance.

Ron Fails, president of the Lima NAACP chapter, said during a press conference that if Memphis police had not been equipped with body cameras, the true story surrounding the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols might have been swept under the rug.

The incident has inflamed racial tensions nationwide.

Nichols, who is Black, was pulled over Jan. 7 for what police said was reckless driving. After attempting to flee on foot, Nichols was aggressively beaten by police, newly-released police body camera video revealed.

According to multiple media outlets, the videos show officers dragging Nichols from his car and shouting profanities throughout the confrontation. An officer tries to deploy a Taser at Nichols and then begins to chase him on foot. Later, officers are seen repeatedly kicking, punching and using a baton to strike Nichols as he lies on the ground.

Three days later, Nichols died in the hospital.

Five former Memphis police officers have been arrested and face charges ranging from murder and aggravated assault to aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. A sixth officer was charged Monday.

All of the former policemen are Black.

Reminiscent of Quincy Pritchett death

Fails related the incident to one experienced by the Lima community last summer. He said residents would have had a clearer picture of the shooting death of Quincy Pritchett at the hands of a sheriff’s deputy if body camera footage had been available.

An internal review and a grand jury found Allen County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Izak Ackerman was justified in using lethal force when he fatally shot Pritchett on June 21 following a traffic stop.

A review by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation found Pritchett ran from his vehicle and fired at least one shot that struck Ackerman in the face as the two struggled on the ground.

On Monday Fails said he did not dispute the findings of the BCI probe.

“However, the investigation was short of there being a visible image of what took place because the officer was not equipped with a body-worn camera,” Fails said.

“Now just think. If the officers in Memphis were not equipped with body cameras, none of us would have seen what really happened.”

Turning to DeWine’s office

Fails said local NAACP officials recently reached out to the governor’s office and received a “very, very favorable” response.

“We’ve been informed that there is a statewide grant where any law enforcement agency in the state that lacks the resources to equip their officers with body-worn cameras is able to apply for this grant to get the necessary equipment to keep both the public safe and our local law enforcement safe.

“We need accountability everywhere, both for the public and where law enforcement is concerned,” Fails said. “We will continue to converse with our governor until our sheriff’s department, SWAT team and drug reinforcement officers are equipped with the necessary technology in order for us to hold them accountable and for them to hold us accountable.”

Sheriff remains steadfast

Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia, unlike a growing number of law enforcement officials across Ohio and nation who have embraced the use of body cameras, has long resisted implementing their use, despite pleas from the NAACP, pastors in the Lima community and former Lima Mayor David Berger. Treglia has steadfastly held the view that the cameras jeopardize citizens’ right to privacy.

Deputies in Auglaize, Putnam and Hardin counties are equipped with body cameras. Auglaize County Sheriff Mike Vorhees recently said the cameras “help us do our jobs a little better and help build stronger cases” to combat crime. Putnam County Sheriff Brian Siefker said cameras “are a good tool. They put an end to the he-said, she-said arguments. We like to use them in the jail, too.”

Major Andre McConnahea, spokesman for the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, said Treglia is “not opposed to body cameras in any way. The only opposition he has is the fact that the legislation still does not protect citizens’ privacy in their own homes, and until the legislation moves in that direction he’s simply not willing to do it.”

McConnahea said if lawmakers make the necessary adjustments to the law the the matter could be re-evaluated.

“Money has never been the issue for us. The issue continues to be for us that the legislation simply doesn’t protect people’s privacy,” McConnahea said.