The shocking death of 29-year-old Tire Nichols has reopened a heated debate about officer violence in the United States, especially after the country was gripped by promises of reform following the death of another black man, George Floyd, in 2020.
The five officers, who were also black, were part of Memphis’ Scorpion unit, which launched in November 2021 to reduce illegal activity in high-crime areas, including covering those areas with more officers.
But on Saturday, MPD said in a statement that it was “in everyone’s best interest to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit.”
“Officers assigned to the unit unreservedly agree to this next step,” he added.
Nichols’ family welcomed the decision in a statement from their attorneys, calling it “appropriate and proportionate to the tragic death of Nichols and a dignified and just decision for all the citizens of Memphis.”
“We hope that other cities will take similar actions in the near future with their saturation police units to begin building more trust in their communities,” the family added.
Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who created the unit, told CNN earlier that it had been at least partially successful, reducing crime in 2022 after a record 345 murders the previous year, a figure she said had sparked “community outcry.” “.
The unit, dubbed Operation Street Crime to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, “is designed to reduce gun violence, be visible in communities and also impact the rise in crime,” he said.
Despite calls for police reform following Floyd’s death, the number of people killed in interactions with police reached a 10-year high in 2022 at 1,186, according to the website Mapping Police Violence.
The officers involved in Nichols’ death face charges of second-degree murder, as well as aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping.
Even after the graphic video of the beating was released Friday, some key questions remained unanswered, particularly what led to the arrest of Nichols.