Memphis Police Scorpion Unit deactivated

Protesters march down the street Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn., as authorities release police video depicting five Memphis officers beating Tyre Nichols, whose death resulted in murder charges and provoked outrage at the country’s latest instance of police brutality. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(NewsNation) — A specialized police group known as the Scorpion Unit, which included the five officers charged in the death of Tyre Nichols, has been permanently deactivated, according to a statement from the Memphis Police Department.

“Scorpion” is an acronym for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods.

“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 assignments, it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” the statement said. “The officers currently assigned to the unit agree unreservedly with this next step.”

Attorneys for the Nichols family reacted with a statement saying the move was “appropriate and proportional to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, and also a decent and just decision for all citizens of Memphis.”

The statement also said, “We hope that other cities take similar action with their saturation police units in the near future to begin to create greater trust in their communities.”

The Nichols family had previously called for the disbanding of the Scorpion Unit.

“The police chief should disband the Scorpion Unit immediately,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Nichols’ family, said before the release of police bodycam video, “Other citizens have come to my office and said their constitutional right was violated by the Scorpion unit.”

Nichols was beaten during a traffic stop on Jan. 7 and died in police custody three days later. All five officers involved in his arrest are facing murder charges. The officers were assigned to a team called the Scorpion Squad.

The Scorpion Squad is a specialized unit started in 2021 to fight crime by targeting problem areas in the city and flooding them with officers. They often work undercover in unmarked cars.

The Memphis Police created the Scorpion Unit in the fall of 2021. It consisted of a unit of four 10-person teams focused on violent-crime reduction in the city’s crime “hot spots.”

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the unit made 566 arrests, 390 of which were felony arrests, from October 2021 through Jan. 23, 2022.

Members of the unit also seized 253 weapons during that time frame.

“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,” the statement said.

Attorneys representing the Nichols family called into question the operations of this unit, wondering why those officers are even conducting traffic stops.

“The intent of the Scorpion Unit has now been corrupted,” said Antonio Romanucci, an attorney representing the Nichols family.

Trending on NewsNation