MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Police announced on Saturday they have permanently disbanded the SCORPION unit, the organized crime group the five former officers accused of killing Tyre Nichols were assigned to.
In a statement, Chief CJ Davis says she made the call after listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community members, and the other officers on the unit.
“It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit,” Davis said.
Davis made the announcement a day after defending the unit, crediting it with 2,000 felony arrests and getting 800 guns off of the street.
The SCORPION Unit was under scrutiny after Nichols’ death. Attorneys for the Nichols family had called for the SCORPION Unit to be disbanded. It had been deactivated by MPD during the ongoing investigation.
District Attorney Steve Mulroy weighed in on the decision.
“I think it’s probably a healthy thing, and I’m glad Chief Davis is taking decisive action there,” Mulroy said. “There have been scattered reports of abuses by the SCORPION Unit and then nationally some of these quick swarm suppression specialty units sometimes can lead to over aggressive tactics.”
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci released the following statement:
“The Nichols family and their legal team find the decision to permanently disband this unit to be both appropriate and proportional to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, and also a decent and just decision for all citizens of Memphis.
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. 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.”
MPD said that officers that are currently assigned to the unit “unreservedly agree” with the steps the department is taking.
SCORPION stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhood. The special unit was created by MPD in 2021 as the city faced record-setting homicide rates.
“Their job is to identify the target area, flood that area with officers and suppress crime in that area mostly by visibility,” said Memphis Police Deputy Chief Don Crowe, explaining what the unit was created to do. “Just being present and having an officer there sees an impact on it.”
But the SCORPION Unit has been the target of criticism from some citizens who said they experienced aggressive treatment by officers.
One man shared the story of his experiences with the unit with WREG earlier this week.
“I was like, that’s them. I said, ‘It’s crazy. That’s them,’” he told WREG after seeing pictures of the five officers named in the Nichols incident.