Memphis police scrap unit after Tyre Nichols' fatal beating

Sunday, 29 January 2023 (11:40 IST)
Police in the US city of Memphis said on Saturday that they were permanently dismantling one of their units following a backlash over the death of Tyre Nichols.
The so-called Scorpion unit — Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods — was established in 2021 and tasked with reducing street violence. 
The announcement came a day after the release of distressing footage showing police officers kicking and punching Nichols. The 29-year-old Black man later succumbed to his injuries.
What did Memphis police say?
Announcing the decision to scrap the unit, police chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis cited "the heinous actions of a few" that dishonored Scorpion. 
"It is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the Scorpion unit," Davis, who had created the unit, said in a statement. She added that the officers currently assigned to the unit agreed "unreservedly" with the step.
Davis said the decision was in response to requests from Nichols' family and community leaders. 
How did Tyre Nichols' family react?
In a statement from the lawyers representing them, Nichols' family welcomed the decision. 
The family called the move "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," the family added.
Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing Nichols' family, said the disbanding of Scorpion was only a step on "this journey for justice and accountability." 
"Clearly this misconduct is not restricted to specialty units — It extends so much further!"
Shocking death
The graphic videos released Friday showed police officers, who were later fired, savagely beating Nichols while screaming profanities at him. Meanwhile, he could be heard saying, "I didn't do anything." 


Five officers, all Black, were charged with murder over the deadly beating of Nichols. The officers had reportedly belonged to the Scorpion unit. 
His death has triggered widespread anger and reopened anguished debate across the US about police misconduct. Promises of police reform had swept the country after the 2020 death of another Black man, George Floyd.
Protests were reported across the country as the footage was released. US President Joe Biden on Friday said he was "outraged and deeply pained" by the footage, adding that it "will leave people justifiably outraged." But he urged protesters to remain peaceful. 
On Saturday, more protests were expected. DW's Washington bureau chief Ines Pohl said some 3,000 officers were set to be prepared for possible protests. 
Calls for reform come as nearly one-third of all people killed by police in the US in 2021 were Black, despite making up only 13% of the country's population, according to the tracking website Mapping Police Violence. 
Biden called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, aimed at tackling police misconduct and boosting accountability efforts.

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