Following protests, police chief of Memphis, where cops savagely beat Tyre Nichols, 29, earlier this month, backtracks on decision to keep special unit active
An activist at the Atlanta Police Headquarters during a rally against the assault of Tyre Nichols, in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday. Pic/AFP
The Memphis police chief has disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit, reversing an earlier statement that she would keep it intact and citing a “cloud of dishonour” from the officers who beat Tyre Nichols to death.
Police Director Cerelyn ‘CJ’ Davis on Sunday said she listened to Nichols’s relatives, community leaders and uninvolved officers in making the decision. Referring to “the heinous actions of a few” that dishonoured the unit, Davis said it was imperative that the department “take proactive steps in the healing process.”
“It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit,” she said in a statement. She said the officers currently assigned to the unit agreed “unreservedly” with the step.
A protester shouts slogans at an NYPD officer during a rally against the fatal assault. Pic/AFP
The unit is composed of three teams of about 30 officers who target violent offenders in areas beset by high crime. It had been inactive since Nichols’ January 7 arrest. Scorpion stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighbourhoods.
Protesters marching through downtown Memphis cheered when they heard the unit had been dissolved. One protester said over a bullhorn “the unit that killed Tyre has been permanently disbanded.”
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In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Davis said she would not shut down a unit if a few officers commit “some egregious act” and because she needs that unit to continue to work. “The whole idea that the Scorpion unit is a bad unit, I just have a problem with that,” Davis said.
She became the first Black woman chief in Memphis one year after George Floyd was killed at the hands of police. At the time, she was the Durham, North Carolina, police chief and responded by calling for sweeping police reform.
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