Saturday, February 24

Memphis dismantles the police unit to which the agents of the deadly beating belonged

The Memphis Police Department has decided this weekend to dismantle the special unit to which the five agents involved in the fatal beating suffered by a man at the beginning of the month during a traffic control belonged. The victim, Tyre Nichols29, died three days after the agents stopped him near his home on January 7: the reason was for reckless driving and he was beaten for resisting his arrest.

Both the five police officers and Nichols are black. The agents were expelled from the force on the 20th and this week they were charged with second degree murder, aggravated assaults and kidnapping. The tragedy has revived the national debate in the US on police abuse of the black minority, especially after the publication on Friday night of four videos that recorded the incident: three body cameras of the agents and one of surveillance in the street.

The pictures show how cops kick you in the face, punched and bludgeoned Nichols with a metal bar, even when the victim was already handcuffed. He was then left lying against the side of a car, without offering him medical assistance.

The unit to which they belonged is called SCORPIO, the acronym for ‘Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods’ (‘Operation against street crimes to return peace to our neighborhoods’), a group created to combat violent crime in the city. It is made up of about three dozen police officers and they are distinguished by some sweatshirts with hoodies with the name of the group and for the use of large displacement Dodge cars, elements that are reflected in the video of the incident.

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The Memphis Police Department announced that the unit had been “permanently deactivated” following the release of the video, although it had already been inactive since Nichols’ arrest. “The egregious conduct of a few places a shadow of dishonor on the SCORPION name, it is necessary that we in the Memphis Police Department take steps for the healing process of all those affected, “explained a statement. The decision came after Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davismeet with the special unit to communicate the “steps to follow.”

Davis arrived in Memphis just over a year and a half ago, signed after holding the same position in the city of Durham, North Carolina. She came at a time high crime and tension with the police In the US: Violent crime has soared in the pandemic in most US cities, a phenomenon complicated by the national reaction to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 and calls for cuts or removal of police. Davis found himself understaffed and demoralized, but managed to reduce the number of homicides in Memphis in 2022 compared to the 2021 record, which reached 345.

The SCORPIONS is one of the police units that worked on it, but anti-crime groups like this one – which have sprung up in many American cities – have been in the eye of activists demanding deep police reforms. An example of this is New York, which dismantled a anti-crime unit operating in civilian clothes in June 2020 and that it sought to reduce the number of firearms crimes in the city. But they had also been accused of acting disproportionately and being involved in most of the shootings that killed suspects.

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Its removal drew criticism, especially from slum representatives, and the city’s current mayor, former police captain Eric Adams, he campaigned based on security and promised the recovery of this unit. Two months after taking office, in March of last year, he complied and re-created the unit, focused on confiscating illegal weapons.

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