Memphis Police Shut Down Scorpion Unit

Chief reverses after pleas from Tyre Nichols' family, community activists
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2023 5:40 PM CST
Memphis Drops Police Unit Involved in Nichols' Beating
Demonstrators march Saturday in Atlanta in protest of the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis.   (AP Photo/Alex Slitz)

The Memphis Police Department announced Saturday that it's disbanding the force's Scorpion unit after five of its officers took part in the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols. Chief Cerelyn Davis said she made the decision after consulting Nichols' family, community leaders, and other officers in the special unit, NBC News reports. A department statement said "the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor" on the squad, adding that "it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process." Officers assigned to Scorpion agree with the decision, officials said.

Davis earlier said the unit, which has three teams of about 30 officers assigned to high-crime areas, would continue, per the AP. The name is an acronym for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods. Its officers, who often drove unmarked cars through neighborhoods, mostly dealt with illegal gun possession, carjacking, and homicides—usually in 10-officer teams, per Axios. An open letter by lawyers Ben Crump, who's representing Nichols' family, and Antonio Romanucci argued this week that such special units facilitate "wolf pack" misconduct and can spark "terror in minority communities."

On Friday, Davis told the AP, "The whole idea that the Scorpion unit is a bad unit, I just have a problem with that." But calls to shut it down grew louder, especially after video of the police beating was released Friday night. Protests and demonstrations were held across the country after the release, and more were being held Saturday, per CNN. In Memphis, people gathered at a makeshift memorial at the spot where surveillance video showed police beating Nichols, who died three days later. (More Tyre Nichols stories.)

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