Memphis Shuts Down Its 'SCORPION' Crime Unit, Corrupted by What One Expert Calls 'Sadistic' Gangsters

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Does the presence of a “SCORPION” street crime unit make Memphis a better place? For now, it appears officials may be leaning toward “no.”


Subsequent to Friday’s release of video footage capturing the deadly beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols, the group has been deactivated. The announcement was made Saturday night.

From NPR:

The…SCORPION Unit – which stood for “Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods” – is being deactivated following a meeting between Chief Cerelyn ‘C.J.’ Davis and officers on the squad.

The other officers assigned to the unit “unreservedly agree with this next step,” a statement from the department said.

“While the heinous actions of a few casts a cloud of dishonor on the title SCORPION,” the statement went on, “it is imperative that we, the Memphis Police Department take proactive steps in the healing process for all impacted.”

Davis previously said she would not disband the unit after Nichols’ death, the Associated Press reported.

The unit’s shuttering isn’t surprising. Video from bodycams as well as a street camera reveals a brutal attack of Tyre. There may have been interaction preceding the released footage’s first moments; but judging solely from what’s been provided, the encounter between cops and the FedEx employee began with an aggressive, expletive-laden assault by law enforcement.

Concerning SCORPION and its virtues or lack thereof, online mental health professional Dr. Todd Grande recently offered his thoughts on the unit and individuals such outfits may attract, as well as the events of January 7th:


“[SCORPION] sounds like it was created by a 13-year-old boy who read too many Marvel comic books. … The problem with the special unit design…is that it tends to attract officers who are looking for action. This is like a SWAT team that doesn’t have to wait to be deployed. Rather, they are always looking for the most invigorating activity. Officers don’t choose this type of assignment to have a relaxing night patrolling Memphis. … These are ultimate tough guys looking to dominate anyone they encounter on the street. It amazes me that the officials in charge of law enforcement in Memphis would look at a tactical unit like this and think it was a good idea. It’s like they have no understanding of the personality factors which drive officers into the most dangerous assignments.”

Where law enforcement is concerned, finding good applicants may not always be easy:

“The difficulty with hiring police officers is that individuals who are dominant and aggressive tend to be the people who apply. Police departments argue that these traits can be channeled into a set of responsibilities which represent a pro-social job; but sometimes, the job changes to match the traits. So it works in the opposite way as intended.”

Back to the case, despite claims of officers in the footage, there is reportedly no evidence that Tyre was guilty of reckless driving.

Will the events of January 7th lead to meaningful police reform in Memphis or elsewhere? That remains to be seen. As for SCORPION and the way it functioned that nefarious night, it failed in nearly every way a coterie commissioned to serve and protect possibly could have.


Dr. Todd summarizes what seems to have occurred:

“Perhaps forming specialized units using sadistic officers who lack empathy only to direct them to dress up as secret paramilitary commandos and patrol the streets is not the best idea to keep the public safe. When police departments form these types of units to combat gang activity, they should realize that someday, the unit could become the gang.”



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