State Watch

Memphis police chief ran aggressive force similar to Scorpion unit while in Atlanta: report

Memphis Police Director Cerelyn Davis speaks during an interview on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis reportedly oversaw a street crime unit in Atlanta that, similar to the now defunct Scorpion unit implicated in the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, was eventually disbanded amid public backlash over its aggressive tactics, according to reports.

The “Red Dog” unit was a group of about 30 officers at the Atlanta Police Department that was meant to flood high crime areas of the city. The unit, which Davis oversaw from 2006 to 2007, was disbanded in 2011, NBC News reported.

The city of Atlanta settled at least 10 lawsuits related to the Red Dog unit throughout its existence, although none were related to misconduct that occurred under Davis’ management, per NBC.

One lawsuit accused the unit of employing “unconstitutional policies, customs, and practices,” including performing strip searches and body cavity searches in public and stopping and frisking individuals without “reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”

A 2013 affidavit from a former Atlanta police officer, who was a member of the Red Dog unit, noted that their supervisors were aware of their “aggressive attitude” and did not appear bothered until it “resulted in political backlash for the administration and politicians.”

The revelations about Davis’ background with the Atlanta unit come in the wake of Nichols’ death last month. The Memphis Police Department’s Scorpion unit — which took a similar approach of targeting high crime areas — arrested Nichols on suspicion of reckless driving on Jan. 7.

In video footage of the traffic stop released last week, officers can be seen pepper-spraying, tasing and beating the 29-year-old. Nichols died several days later from his injuries.

The controversial Scorpion unit was officially deactivated on Saturday amid public backlash over Nichols’ death. Five police officers in the unit that were involved in Nichols’ arrest were fired and have since been charged with second-degree murder.

sixth officer was also “relieved of duty” at the beginning of the Memphis Police Department’s investigation into the incident. A seventh officer has since been suspended, and two emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and one lieutenant with the Memphis Fire Department have been fired.

Tags Atlanta Atlanta Police Department Cerelyn Davis Memphis Memphis Police Department Red Dog unit Scorpion unit Tyre Nichols

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