Bracing for public outrage, the authorities in Memphis have chosen to wait until shortly after 6 p.m. Central time on Friday to release video of the police encounter that resulted in Tyre Nichols’s death.
Mr. Nichols was hospitalized on Jan. 7 following a traffic stop that escalated into a brutal beating; he died three days later. The five officers involved in the encounter were fired last week and were arrested Thursday on second-degree murder and other charges.
Officials have said that the video footage is nearly an hour long, and was obtained from police body cameras and stationary cameras. It is being released with limited redactions, the officials said.
Chief Cerelyn Davis of the Memphis police has said that the video shows a “heinous, reckless and inhumane” incident that she expects will draw public outrage.
Some Memphis city council members who were not involved in deciding when to release the video said they supported the plan to wait until after schools and many businesses in the city had closed for the night.
“Friday at 6 p.m., very, very few people will be at work,” said Frank Colvett Jr., a councilman from the city’s east side. “Everyone will have had plenty of time to get home from school, from their jobs, and just stay home.”
Another council member, Dr. Jeff Warren, said he thought waiting until Friday evening would “allow time for people to digest the fact that arrests had been made and charges had been brought.”
Anticipating protests after the video is made public, local civic leaders, members of Mr. Nichols’s family and President Biden have urged demonstrators to remain peaceful.
Michael Lawlor, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, noted that the delayed release gave the Memphis and Shelby County authorities time to investigate and fire the five officers and to arrest and indict them before the public saw the video.
“They anticipate people will be shocked and horrified by what they see,” Professor Lawlor said. “And before that happens, they want to make sure it’s very clear what the official reaction to this is: The officers charged with murder, second degree.”
In other high-profile cases of police-involved deaths, the timing of the release of body camera footage has varied widely. Sometimes the video has been made public swiftly to emphasize transparency.
The authorities in Columbus, Ohio, released video footage of Ma’Khia Bryant’s fatal encounter with the police just a few hours after she was shot and killed by an officer in April 2021. That same month, when Daunte Wright was fatally shot by a police officer at a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn., the authorities showed graphic body camera footage to reporters the next day.
But laws in some states can make the release take much longer, and in some cases, police departments have withheld video footage out of fear over the public’s reaction to seeing it.
When Daniel Prude died in March 2020 while being detained by the police in Rochester, N.Y., police commanders intentionally delayed releasing body camera footage of the encounter for months. Ultimately, it was Mr. Prude’s family who made the footage public in September 2020.
Kami Chavis, a law professor at William & Mary Law School, said that the expected release of the Tyre Nichols video in Memphis seemed “timely.”
“Violence has erupted in other cities when you’ve had different situations, where the officers haven’t been named or fired or arrested,” she said, but those steps “happened very quickly in this situation.”