Memphis police disband unit that beat Tyre Nichols

Police Director Cerelyn “CJ” Davis acted a day after the harrowing video emerged, saying she listened to Nichols’ relatives, community leaders and uninvolved officers in making the decision.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis police chief on Saturday disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from newly released video that showed some of its officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after stopping the Black motorist.


Her announcement came as the nation and the city struggled to come to grips with the violence of the officers, who are also Black. The video renewed doubts about why fatal encounters with law enforcement keep happening despite repeated calls for change.

Protestors marching though downtown Memphis cheered when they heard the unit had been dissolved. One protestor said over a bullhorn that “the unit that killed Tyre has been permanently disbanded.”
Referring to “the heinous actions of a few” that dishonored the unit, Davis contradicted an earlier statement that she would keep the unit. She said it was imperative that the department “take proactive steps in the healing process.”

“It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit,” she said in a statement. She said the officers currently assigned to the unit agreed “unreservedly” with the step.
The unit is composed of three teams of about 30 officers who target violent offenders in areas beset by high crime. It had been inactive since Nichols’ Jan. 7 arrest.

Scorpion stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Davis said she would not shut down a unit if a few officers commit “some egregious act” and because she needs that unit to continue to work.

“The whole idea that the Scorpion unit is a bad unit, I just have a problem with that,” Davis said.
She became the first Black female chief in Memphis one year after George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police. At the time, she was the Durham, North Carolina, police chief and responded by calling for sweeping police reform. 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.

The five disgraced former Memphis Police Department officers have been fired and charged with murder and other crimes in Nichols’ death three days after the arrest.

The footage released Friday left many unanswered questions about the traffic stop and about other law enforcement officers who stood by as Nichols lay motionless on the pavement.

The recording shows police savagely beating the 29-year-old FedEx worker for three minutes while screaming profanities at him in an assault that the Nichols family legal team has likened to the infamous 1991 police beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King. Nichols calls out for his mother before his limp body is propped against a squad car and the officers exchange fist-bumps.

The five officers — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith — face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

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