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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Memphis Police Shut Down SCORPION Unit Whose Officers are Charged in Death of Tyre Nichols


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The Memphis Police Department said it permanently disabled the Scorpion unit after Tyre Nichols’ death.

“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 assignment, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the department said in a statement Saturday.


The statement said: “the officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step. 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 news comes a day after authorities released video showing five Memphis police officers punching and kicking Nichols during a Jan. 7 traffic stop. Nichols, 29, died three days later on January 10.

All five officers were members of Scorpion, which stands for ‘Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods.’ The vaunted Anti-Violence Unit was formed in November 2021 as the city’s homicide rate soared and called for action from the community.

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Tyre Nichols

Eliminating the unit is just one step toward justice, Benjamin Crump and Antonio Romanucci, attorneys for the Nichols family, said in a statement.

In a joint statement, they said, “The Nichols family and their legal team believe the decision to permanently disband this entity is reasonable and proportionate to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, as well as a decent and fair decision for all citizens of Memphis” on Saturday.

“We expect other cities to take similar action when police forces are saturated,” the couple said.

The Memphis unit consisted of four squads of police officers whose primary focus, according to the department, was reducing violent crime and “saturating the city’s hot spots.” 

Mayor Jim Strickland promoted the unit as part of the solution in his January 2022 State of the City address, describing it as part of a crime-fighting strategy that also included a gun violence intervention program and more money for the police department.

Memphis Police Shut Down SCORPION Unit Whose Officers are Charged in Death of Tyre Nichols

In the unit’s first three months, the mayor said the unit made more than 566 arrests and seized more than $103,000 in cash and 253 weapons.

The five police officers – Tadarius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmett Martin III, Justin Smith and Desmond Mills Jr. – were fired from the police force and charged with second-degree murder, two counts of misconduct, two counts of kidnapping, public repression and one count of aggravated one charged with assault.


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