Tyre Nichols Family’s Lawyer Call for the Abolishment of SCORPION Unit

Flanked by Rodney Wells (C) and RowVaughn Wells, the stepfather and mother of Tyre Nichols, civil rights attorney Ben Crump speaks during a press conference on January 27, 2023 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Tyre Nichols‘ family’s lawyer has called for the abolishment of the Memphis Police Department SCORPION unit, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods. The unit is comprised of 40 officers split into four teams, five officers of whom have been charged with Nichols’ murder. The SCORPION unit, which is as evil as it sounds, was created a little more than a year ago in the Fall of 2021. Per The New York Times:

The unit — called SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods unit — was designed as a 40-officer group that would deploy in neighborhoods, with a focus on crime hot spots. The officers have often operated in unmarked vehicles, making traffic stops, seizing weapons and conducting hundreds of arrests.

As someone who has been pulled over by an unmarked cop car, I can tell you it is absolutely terrifying. There’s a reason why it’s illegal in some states, and should be illegal in all. You have no idea that the car behind you is law enforcement until the lights appear, or what agency they’re with. (Are they local PD? Highway patrol? County sheriff? You have no way of knowing.) There is a moment of discombobulation when the lights come on and you register you’re getting pulled over that is extremely disorienting because it comes out of nowhere. With a marked car, you register there are police, and you have time to adjust to the fact that there’s a possibility of interaction. With an unmarked car, you don’t.

Tyre Nichols’ family lawyer has stated that the police who murdered him were in unmarked cars when they pulled him over and ultimately attacked him.

SCORPION needs to go, and Tyre Nichols’ family lawyer is saying that publicly:

On Friday, Antonio Romanucci, a lawyer for Mr. Nichols’s family, said units that saturate neighborhoods under the guise of crime-fighting end up oppressing young people and people of color, often operating with impunity. He said the family was calling on the Memphis police department to disband the Memphis unit immediately.

The unit is also responsible for more excessive force complaints, according to Ben Crump, who is also representing Nichols’ family:

Ben Crump, a lawyer for the family, said the Memphis unit has used excessive force before, adding that a man reported being confronted by the unit — and being threatened with an officer’s gun — while he was going to get pizza just a few days before Mr. Nichols’s death. Another man, age 66, also described being brutalized by the unit and had photos of his injuries, Mr. Crump said.

“We believe that this was a pattern and practice, and Tyre is dead because that pattern and practice went unchecked by the people who were supposed to check that,” Mr. Crump said.

As of right now, the unit is not abolished but “inactive” per the mayor’s order during an MPD investigation into what happened during the January 7th traffic stop that lead to the murder of Tyre Nichols. What happened to Tyre Nichols was an abomination and a gross miscarriage of justice. The SCORPION unit must be disbanded.

(featured image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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