Memphis police shut down the SCORPION unit whose officers are charged in the death of Tire Nichols

The Memphis Police Department announced Saturday that it has “permanently disabled” it SCORPION devicea day after the release of shocking video which featured the violent arrest of Tire Nichols earlier this month. All 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 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 concluded that it was “in the best interest of everyone to permanently disable the SCORPION device,” the statement said.

SCORPION officers “unreservedly” agreed with the decision, the department added.

The SCORPION unit had been inactive since the Jan. 7 arrest of Nichols, the city of Memphis said in a news bulletin Friday.

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” emblazoned on the front and back, and drove dark-colored Dodge Chargers marked with a SCORPION seal.

The crime-fighting teams patrolled in groups and sometimes used warranted, low-level traffic stops as a way to find violent criminals, drugs or weapons, according to the department.

In a news bulletin published Jan. 27, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said, “Since this incident occurred, the SCORPION unit has been and remains inactive,” though he did not clarify when the unit was deactivated. Strickland also said the city is “initiating an external, independent review of the training, policies and operations of our specialized units.”

“While the despicable actions of a few cast a cloud of dishonor on the title of SCORPION, it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department, take proactive steps in the healing process for all affected,” Saturday’s statement read.

The 29-year-old Nichols died January 10, three days after being violently arrested during a traffic stop by Memphis police officers. Bodycam and surveillance video released Friday showed Nichols being pepper-sprayed, kicked in the head while being restrained, punched and hit multiple times 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 employed from 2017 to 2020, and were 24 to 32 years old. All five officers have been charged with murder and other crimes.

Pat Milton and Chrissy Hallowell contributed to this report.

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