State Watch

Memphis police deactivate Scorpion unit following video release of Tyre Nichols’s fatal arrest

(City of Memphis via AP)
The image from video released on Jan. 27, 2023, and partially redacted by the City of Memphis, shows Tyre Nichols on the ground during a brutal attack by five Memphis police officers on Jan. 7, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. Nichols died on Jan. 10. The five officers have since been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. (City of Memphis via AP)

The Memphis Police Department announced on Saturday that it has deactivated its special unit that patrols high-crime areas following the release of the video of Tyre Nichols’s fatal arrest. 

The department said in a statement that officials decided it was in the best interest of the community for the Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, or Scorpion, unit to be permanently dissolved. 

“In the process of listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community leaders, and the uninvolved officers who have done quality work in their assignments, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the department wrote. 

It said all officers who were currently assigned to the unit agreed with the decision. 

The news came less than a day after the department released the body camera footage showing the traffic stop that led to Nichols’s death. 

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was pulled over for what officers alleged was reckless driving on Jan. 7. Police pulled Nichols out of his car after stopping him and wrestled him to the ground. 

Nichols ran away from the officers, but they ultimately caught up with him and beat him with a baton and kicked and punched him for three minutes. Footage showed more than 20 minutes passed between the time the officers beat Nichols and him receiving any medical attention. 

Nichols said he had shortness of breath and was taken to a hospital, where he died three days later from injuries he sustained during the arrest.

The five officers involved in the stop and Nichols’s death were fired and have since been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes. 

The Memphis police launched the Scorpion unit, which the five officers were members of, in November 2021 to reduce violent crime in “hot spots” throughout the city. 

Police Chief Cerelyn Davis told CNN that it was formed from an “outcry” from the community after a record number of homicides in 2021. She noted that 2022 was the first year where a drop in homicides happened in a “long time.” 

But prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Nichols’s family, and others said the unit should be disbanded as it has engaged in “this type of brutality” on other occasions. 

Crump and the family’s other attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said in a letter to the police department that the behavior of these types of units can “morph into ‘wolf pack’ misconduct.” 

“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted,” the department’s statement said Saturday. 

“The Memphis Police Department remains committed to serving our community and taking every measure possible to rebuild the trust that has been negatively affected by the death of Mr. Tyre Nichols,” it concluded.

Tags Ben Crump Memphis Memphis Police Department Memphis Police Department Scorpion unit Tyre Nichols

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