What’s Memphis’ controversial SCORPION police unit? By Reuters

© Reuters. A makeshift memorial for Tyre Nichols, a younger Black man who was killed throughout a site visitors cease by Memphis cops, is displayed at Tobey Park Skate Park in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S., January 27, 2023. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer

(Reuters) – At the least a few of the officers concerned within the site visitors cease that authorities say resulted within the beating and loss of life of Tyre Nichols had been a part of a specialised Memphis policing unit known as SCORPION.

Underneath stress over rising violent crime, Memphis in October 2021 created SCORPION, which stands for Road Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods. Its mandate is to stem homicides, assaults and robberies.

How is SCORPION linked to the Nichols case?

As a result of no less than a few of the officers belonged to SCORPION, questions have arisen over whether or not they had been appearing as a part of the unit after they encountered Nichols.

Extra broadly, the case has drawn consideration to Memphis’ specialised models and elite police groups usually. Critics say these kind of process forces typically use aggressive techniques, function with out satisfactory oversight and harass communities of shade.

Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, died within the hospital three days after a violent Jan. 7 encounter with the 5 Black officers who initially stopped his car for a site visitors violation.

The 5 officers have since been charged with second-degree homicide, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression and fired from their jobs.

What’s the SCORPION unit?

Memphis officers have mentioned the unit contains about 40 officers in 4 groups concentrating on crime sizzling spots. Every workforce has members targeted on automotive theft, gang investigations and “crime suppression,” Mayor Jim Strickland mentioned in a speech in January 2022.

A 2021 video in regards to the unit’s launch confirmed a number of dozen officers, principally males, going by roll name earlier than heading on patrols. Some wore plain garments and drove unmarked automobiles.

In its first few months of existence, between October 2021 and Jan. 23, 2022, SCORPION made 566 arrests. Of these, 390 had been felony arrests, in keeping with Strickland. Officers seized tens of 1000’s of {dollars} and over 250 weapons, the mayor mentioned.

What’s the criticism of SCORPION?

The Nichols case has raised considerations that the unit strayed from its core mission, had insufficient oversight and used techniques that elevated the danger of violence.

Attorneys for the household have known as on the police division to disband SCORPION. Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump mentioned such models can flip into “a pack of wolves.”

He identified that Nichols’ encounter with police started with a site visitors cease, which doesn’t fall underneath the unit’s mandate to handle violent crime. Critics say such stops are excuses to seek for weapons or medicine and might escalate into violence.

Crump additionally highlighted that one other Black male in Memphis mentioned he was the sufferer of “extreme drive” by SCORPION officers only a few days earlier than Nichols’ loss of life.

Is the unit underneath assessment?  

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis this week introduced a assessment of the entire police division’s specialised models together with SCORPION in response to Nichols’ loss of life. She known as the incident “heinous, reckless and inhumane.”

The division didn’t instantly reply to questions on SCORPION’S standing, previous complaints towards the unit and whether or not all 5 officers had been assigned to it.

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