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Will SCORPION Unit disband change perception of Memphis police?

The SCORPION Unit was supposed to reduce crime in Memphis residential hot spots.
Posted at 8:28 PM, Jan 29, 2023

Over the weekend, the Memphis Police Department put an end to the city's so-called SCORPION Unit for good.

This comes as five former officers face second-degree murder charges in the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

But will this move to deconstruct a division within the department change the posture of officers or citizens' perception of the Memphis police organization?

"That reprehensible conduct we saw in that video, we think this was part of the culture of the SCORPION Unit," said Ben Crump, Nichols' family attorney.

Criminal justice expert Kenya Tyson spent over 20 years working in law and social justice reform. She says the history of disparaging treatment of Black people is repeating itself.

Memphis disbands SCORPION Unit after Tyre Nichols' video release

Memphis disbands SCORPION Unit after Tyre Nichols' video release

The unit's disbandment comes as protests have spread throughout the city in recent days.


"What we're seeing in Memphis right now is what we've seen in Memphis for several decades, for several centuries. Nothing has really changed except the uniform," said Tyson.

SCORPION stood for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. It was supposed to reduce crime in residential hot spots. 

"Our efforts are not just to write citations and send them on their way," said Chief Cerelyn Davis said in 2021.

Tyson says unions have a lot to do with police culture and right now they're quiet.

KENYA TYSON: The thing that's going to make this really interesting to watch is the fact that there were five Black officers who have been accused of this particular crime. Now, let's see how zealous the police unions are to protect the rights of these five Black officers.

SCRIPPS NEWS' TAMMY ESTWICK: I'm just gonna put it on the table. Are we saying that because they're Black?

TYSON: Yes. And there's a history of this, right? Not only with police unions, but even in the ways that police prosecute their own.