MPD’s SCORPION unit permanently deactivated

By , Daily Memphian Updated: January 28, 2023 8:19 PM CT | Published: January 28, 2023 3:40 PM CT

The Memphis Police Department announced Saturday, Jan. 28, that its SCORPION unit, or Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, has been deactivated. 

According to a tweet from MPD, Chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis met with members of SCORPION to discuss a path forward: 

“In the process of listening intently to the family of Tyre Nichols, community leaders and the uninvolved officers ... it is in the best interest of all to permanently deactivate the SCORPION Unit.”

Downtown protesters stand together for change

According to the release, the officers currently assigned to the unit agreed “unreservedly” with the deactivation of the unit. 

Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who are representing the family of Tyre Nichols, issued a statement about the disbandment. 

They said the decision to deactivate SCORPION is “both appropriate and proportional to the tragic death of Tyre Nichols, and also a decent and just decision for all citizens of Memphis.”

“We hope that other cities take similar action with their saturation police units in the near future to begin to create greater trust in their communities,” Crump and Romanucci’s statement said. “We must keep in mind that this is just the next step on this journey for justice and accountability, as clearly this misconduct is not restricted to these specialty units. It extends so much further.”

Nichols’ family attorney calls for Memphis to be ‘blueprint’

On Friday, Jan. 27, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland wrote in his weekly email that the unit was inactive.

“I want to assure you we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again,” he said. “We are initiating an outside, independent review of the training, policies, and operations of our specialized units.”

The SCORPION unit was launched in November 2021 as one of many initiatives of Davis, who was sworn in June 2021. Under her direction, the Auto Theft Task Force and Fugitive Unit also were founded. 

SCORPION was designed to target gangs and auto thefts.

It was comprised of three teams — a crime suppression team, an auto theft task force and a gang unit team. Each team had 10 officers, according to Davis, and it operated seven days a week. 

City Council looks at long-term police reforms in wake of Tyre Nichols’ death

During an interview Friday, Jan. 27, Davis credited the unit with the removal of 800 handguns off the streets and a reduction in violent crimes.

“A lot of the good work that was done by other members of these teams is a bit cloudy right now,” Davis said. 

On Saturday, protesters outside the MPD Public Safety Building, 170 N. Main, expressed satisfaction with the disbanding but called for the end of all specialized units within the police department. 

“That’s a start but we’re not done,” said Paula Buress, one of the protest leaders. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

The video footage of the fatal arrest of Tyre Nichols was released to the public Friday. 

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Nichols, 29, was stopped by Memphis Police officers Jan. 7 near the intersection of Raines and Ross roads in southeast Memphis. He died Jan. 10 from injuries sustained in the incident.

The five officers with the SCORPION unit were fired Friday, Jan. 20. Days later, on Thursday, Jan. 26, they were arrested and indicted on charges of second-degree murder, acting in concert of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of official misconduct and official oppression.

Photo gallery: Memphis responds to Tyre Nichols video



Memphis Police Department SCORPION unit
Julia Baker

Julia Baker

Julia Baker covers Memphis and Shelby County’s law enforcement agencies and is a member of The Daily Memphian’s public safety reporting team. A lifelong Memphian, Julia graduated from the University of Memphis in 2021. Other publications and organizations she has written for include Chalkbeat, Memphis Flyer, Memphis Parent magazine and Memphis magazine.

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