The Memphis Police Department has permanently disbanded its special “Scorpion” unit a day after the city publicly released video footage of the arrest of Tyre Nichols.
Nichols, 29, was engaged in a violent encounter with police officers in Memphis on Jan. 7 after a traffic stop, during which he attempted to flee and resisted police arrest. Nichols was brutally hit by police officers as they tried to arrest him. He required hospitalization and died on Jan. 10. Five of the officers who were involved in Nichols’ arrest were fired and later arrested and charged with Nichols’ murder.
“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 MPD said in a statement on Saturday.
Per the statement, “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.”
— Memphis Police Dept (@MEM_PoliceDept) January 28, 2023
The Scorpion unit, launched in November 2021, comprised three teams of about 30 officers. Scorpion stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods.
The unit was tasked with addressing rising crime in Memphis, in part by targeting violent offenders in areas of concern. But the unit faced heavy criticism in the aftermath of Nichols’ death. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Nichols had “succumbed to his injuries.”
The five former officers face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder. Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, and Justin Smith, each also face a slew of other charges—aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping resulting in bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping involving possession of a weapon, official misconduct through the unauthorized exercise of power, official misconduct through the failure to act upon a lawful duty, and official oppression.
Protesters marching though downtown Memphis cheered on Saturday when they heard that the unit had been dissolved.
Cerelyn Davis, the MPD chief, told The Associated Press the day prior that she wouldn’t shut down the Scorpion unit for just a few police officers’ actions because the unit needs to keep working to reduce crime.
“The whole idea that the Scorpion unit is a bad unit, I just have a problem with that,” Davis told the news agency.
Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, lawyers for the Nichols family, said the move was “a decent and just decision for all citizens of Memphis.”
“We must keep in mind that this is just the next step on this journey for justice and accountability, as clearly this misconduct is not restricted to these specialty units. It extends so much further,” they said.
Davis has said that other officers are under investigation for their part in the arrest, and Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner said two deputies have been relieved of duty without pay pending an investigation of their conduct.
Protests were planned late Friday across the United States following the release of video footage of Nichols’ arrest. Protesters blocked the Interstate 55 bridge in Memphis. Protesters also blocked traffic in other cities: New York City, Los Angeles, and Portland.
Davis acknowledged that the police department is suffering with a supervisor shortage and that the lack of a supervisor in the arrest was a “major problem.” City officials have pledged to provide more of them.
Questions swirled around what led to the traffic stop in the first place. One officer can be heard saying that Nichols wouldn’t stop and then swerved as though he intended to hit the officer’s car. The officer said that when Nichols pulled up to a red light, the officers jumped out of the car.
But Davis said the department cannot substantiate the reason for the stop.
“We don’t know what happened,” she said, adding, “All we know is the amount of force that was applied in this situation was over the top.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times