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Faulkner meets with Black community leaders to discuss impact from killing of Tyre Nichols

Days after releasing a statement regarding the “horrific video” of Memphis police officers beating Tyre Nichols to death, Franklin Police Chief Deborah Faulkner met with area religious leaders representing the African American communities here.

The video was released last Friday from body cameras of the Memphis officers, showing the beating after the 29-year-old Nichols was pulled over for a traffic violation on the night of Jan. 7. Faulkner’s statement came the next morning.

"The horrific video from Memphis left members of the FPD shocked and saddened," she wrote. "The outrageous actions of the former MPD Officers violated the law and their oath of office. The lack of humanity and professionalism is beyond shameful.

“The members of the Franklin Police Department want our community to know we value the people we serve. We work hard every day to earn your trust and confidence. We are a part of our community, not apart from it. We Care …

“We send our heartfelt condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols and all those who loved him."

Faulkner, who is white, later reached out to the Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition and, according to co-founder and pastor Walter Simmons, “wanted to recommit and do whatever she needed to do to make sure our community is understanding, loving, caring and that the Franklin Police department and where she serves supports all people.”

FJEC then requested a meeting with Faulkner. Simmons, pastor Chris Williamson and deacon Anthony Pickett, who are Black, discussed at the meeting Tuesday morning how the police force could better serve the African American community in Franklin.

“We wanted to go in and say, ‘Chief Faulkner, not only do we want your support of our community, we want to make sure you have support of the Black communities and church communities that we lead and how can we support you,’” Simmons said. 

“In the meeting, we came up with a few things. Pastor Williamson and I, from our pulpits, talk a lot about how officers can’t afford to live in or don’t live in the communities they serve. We really have to take a look at Franklin that our police officers and our school teachers can’t live here. The people who are supposed to protect and serve us can’t live in these communities, and sometimes that can create barriers.”

The FJEC leaders questioned Faulkner about qualified immunity, a sweeping legal doctrine that protects officers from civil lawsuits, and how to pursue justice for those illegally killed, brutalized and harassed by police. 

“Lament and prayer are two staples of what we have to do in this moment, but when we are done, we must take some action to change policy,” Simmons said. “I believe, as a pastor who serves God and believes in the humanity of people, that no one in the United States should ever die at the hands of police, who are charged to protect and serve, for a traffic stop, unless the officer is truly under duress. We would love to see courtrooms be the judge and jury of traffic stops. … We need rules of engagement that suit both the officer and the community.”

Faulkner also met with City Administrator Eric Stuckey early in the week to discuss her statement and the alleged impact of Nichols’ death on the FPD. 

“I was in the office early Saturday and Sunday, and officers would come in for one thing or the other, and they would see my car and stop in, and they were just hanging their heads,” she said. 

“They were very concerned and, quite frankly, just totally taken aback by what they observed [in the video], and we know the damage it does to the law enforcement community and that’s just not OK. Our officers work extremely hard to build relationships with the people of Franklin. We want and have to have their trust in order to carry out our mission.”

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