The shocking death of 29-year-old Tire Nichols has reignited a harrowing debate across America about officer violence, particularly after promises of reform swept the country following the death of another black man, George Floyd, in 2020.
The five officers, who were also black, belonged to the Memphis Scorpion unit, which launched in November 2021 with the intention of reducing illegal activity in crime hotspots, including by manning those areas with more officers.
But on Saturday, the MPD said in a statement that “it was in everyone’s best interest to permanently disable the SCORPION Unit.”
“The officers currently assigned to the unit wholeheartedly agree to this next step,” he added.
Nichols’ family welcomed the decision in a statement from his attorneys, calling it “appropriate and proportionate to the tragic death of Tire Nichols, and also a decent and fair decision for all the citizens of Memphis.”
“We hope other cities will take similar steps with their saturation police units in the near future to begin building greater trust in their communities,” the family added.
Police Chief Cerelyn Davis, who created the unit, had previously told CNN that it was at least initially successful, with crime dropping in 2022 after a record 345 homicides the year before, a number she said led to “a community protest.” .”
The unit, which stands for Operation Street Crime to Restore Peace to Our Neighborhoods, was intended to “reduce gun violence, be visible in communities, and also impact increased crime,” he said.
Despite nationwide calls for police reform following Floyd’s death, the number of people who died during interactions with police reached a 10-year high in 2022, with 1,186 fatalities, according to the Mapping Police website. violence.
The officers involved in Nichols’ death face second-degree murder charges, as well as aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping charges.
Even after the release of the graphic video showing the beating on Friday, some key questions remained unanswered, primarily what caused Nichols to be detained.