Memphis police shut down SCORPION unit after Tire Nichols arrest video emerged

The Memphis Police Department announced on Saturday that it has “permanently disabled” its SCORPIO Unitone day after release shocking video which showed the violent arrest of Tire Nichols earlier this month. The five former officers involved in Nichols’ arrest, who have since been charged with second-degree murder in his death, were part of that unit.

The decision came after Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis met with members of the unit on Saturday “to discuss the way forward for the department and the community in the wake of the tragic death of Tire Nichols,” police said in a statement.

Officials have come to the conclusion that it is “in everyone’s interest to permanently disable the SCORPION unit,” the statement said.

SCORPION officers “wholeheartedly” accepted the decision, the department added.

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis
Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Memphis, Tennessee on January 27, 2023.

Gerald Herbert / AP

SCORPION, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, included more than two dozen officers assigned to SCORPION teams. They wore black hoodies and black tactical vests with “POLICE” written on the front and back, and drove dark-colored Dodge Chargers branded with a SCORPION seal.

Crime teams patrolled in groups and sometimes used low-level justified traffic stops to find violent criminals, drugs or weapons, according to the department.

In a January 27 newsletter, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said, ā€œSince this event occurred, the SCORPION unit has been and remains inactive,ā€ although he has not not specified when the unit was deactivated. Strickland also said the city is “initiating an outside, independent review of the training, policies and operations of our specialty units.”

“As the heinous actions of a few cast a cloud of dishonor over SCORPION stock, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all those affected,” reads Saturday’s press release.

Nicholas, 29 died on January 10, three days after being violently arrested during a traffic stop by Memphis police. Body camera and surveillance video released Friday showed Nichols being pepper sprayed, punched in the head while being restrained, kicked and hit repeatedly with a baton.

The five former officers, who have since been fired, have been identified as Demetrius Haley, Tadarrius Bean, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. They were hired from 2017 to 2020, and were aged 24 to 32. The five officers were accused of murder and other crimes.

Pat Milton and Chrissy Hallowell contributed to this report.


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