The Memphis Police Department said Saturday it is disbanding its SCORPION unit in the wake of the brutal police killing of Tyre Nichols. The announcement came one day after the police department released the video of Nichols’s murder, showing five officers relentlessly beating the 29-year-old just 80 feet from his home. The officers, who now face murder charges, pepper-sprayed, tased, kicked and beat Nichols while shouting threats and a series of commands. Nichols died three days later of kidney failure and cardiac arrest. Medics failed to administer assistance to Nichols for at least 15 minutes after they arrived on the scene; two EMTs have been suspended pending an investigation. Nichols’s stepfather has called for the paramedics to face criminal charges, calling them “just as guilty.”
Protesters took to the streets of Memphis and other cities across the country following the video’s release. In Memphis, organizers welcomed the disbanding of the SCORPION unit but said much more is needed. This is Amber Sherman of the Memphis chapter of Black Lives Matter.
Amber Sherman: “The multilevel gang unit, the Organized Crime Unit all work under the same umbrella as the SCORPION unit and need to all be disbanded, as well, because just by ending that unit, that’s a good move, but then you still have these same task forces who are doing that same terrorism, assaulting people, overcriminalizing other poor and Black — the poor and low-income neighborhoods, mostly where Black people live, because we are a majority-Black city.”
Tyre’s murder has prompted fresh demands for Congress to pass police reform legislation. Ben Crump, the lawyer for Nichols’s family, called for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which remains stalled in the Senate after the House approved it in 2021. The Congressional Black Caucus is pressing to meet with President Biden this week, who also voiced support for enacting the legislation. Many activists continue to call for a greater institutional overhaul, arguing the inherently racist policing system in the U.S. is beyond reform.