Memphis Police Disband Controversial SCORPION Unit

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The specialized SCORPION police unit whose officers were charged for the death of Memphis black man Tyre Nichols, was shut down permanently over the past weekend.

According to a statement from the Memphis Police Department issued Saturday (Jan. 28), Chief C.J. Davis met with officers of the SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) Unit. All agreed “unreservedly” to disband the unit in order to foster more healing and work with the community. Chief Davis also called for a review of all other specialized units in the department to take place. The full statement was later issued via their Twitter account.

The permanent abolition of the unit was one of the demands of the family of Tyre Nichols, protesters and other city officials as more details of the brutal beating became known. Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who represent the Nichols family, released an official statement later that afternoon.

The Nichols family and their legal team find the decision to permanently disband this unit to be both appropriate and proportional to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, and also a decent and just decision for all citizens of Memphis. We hope that other cities take similar action with their saturation police units in the near future to begin to create greater trust in their communities,” the statement said.

The SCORPION unit was created shortly after Davis was hired as chief of police in 2021 as a way to lessen the number of homicides in the city with a focus on other crimes including reckless driving. Twenty-nine-year-old Nichols was confronted by five black officers from the unit at a traffic stop Jan. 7. Nichols was allegedly driving reckless and was pulled over.

Chief Davis would later state to NBC News that they were unable to find evidence for that stop on video. The five officers – Demetrius Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills, Jr., and Justin Smith – brutally beat him. Nichols was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He died of his injuries Jan. 10.

The city released the footage of the assault Friday evening (Jan. 27), sparking further outrage. That same day, all five cops posted bond and are out of jail ahead of their Feb. 17 court appearance.

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