The Memphis Police Scorpion unit, some of whose members were captured on video displaying a flagrant disregard for human life in the beating death of Tyre Nichols, has been permanently disbanded.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis the decision Saturday (Jan. 27), saying,
a “cloud of dishonor” looms over the disbanded unit, as the January 7 footage has made it difficult for the city to digest the gruesome actions of the five police officers, according to The Associated Press.
“It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit,” she said in a statement, adding that the officers that remain assigned to the unit “agree unreservedly” with the decision.
Not only did the five officers, who are all Black, show a disregard for humanity, their tactics raised questions about their training as they repeatedly accidentally sprayed each other with pepper spray. Further, they made questionable decisions throughout the videos, including their initial encounter with Nichols, who was stopped at a traffic stop in a car and appeared cooperative. It was the officers themselves, who appeared to be out of order and charged up, the videos show.
The officers – Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Justin Smith, Emmitt Martin and Desmond Mills Jr. – have each been charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, two charges of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Thursday (Jan. 26) in a statement.
In an interview with CBS News, Davis questions why Nichols was pulled over in the first place by the five officers.
“It’s very puzzling for me that I don’t have the information I need to at least understand what started this.”
Nichols succumbed to his injuries three days later on January 10 at a local hospital.
Scorpion stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods and has three teams of an estimated 30 officers. The unit has been inactive since Nichols’ arrest on January 7.
A loud public outcry about the officers’ so-called police tactics after the videos were released prompted Davis to reverse a decision to close down the unit. On Friday (Jan. 27), she said in a testimonial video, she would not close down the unit due to “some egregious acts” of a few officers.
Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, attorneys for the Nichols family, called the move a “decent and just decision” to disband the unit.
“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.
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