Tyre Nichols death: What is the Memphis police SCORPION unit?

Memphis authorities released video footage Friday showing Tyre Nichols being beaten by police officers who held the Black motorist down and repeatedly struck him with their fists, boots and batons as he screamed for his mother and pleaded, "I just want to go home."

The officers charged in the 29-year-old FedEx worker’s death were a part of the department’s SCORPION unit which focused on street crime.

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The SCORPION unit, which stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, was created by Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis in October 2021 to stop crime in neighborhoods plagued with violence.

It consisted of four teams tasked with patrolling "high crime hotspots," throughout the Memphis area, according to the city’s website

A video touting the unit was posted in November 2021 by Memphis police on their Facebook page with a video clip of the unit preparing for duty. 

According to the City of Memphis’ website, the unit was created to address violent crimes including "homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and carjackings."

Lawyers for the Nichols’ family have called on city officials to disband the unit. 

Davis said other officers are still being investigated for violating department policy. In addition, she said "a complete and independent review" will be conducted of the department’s specialized units, without providing further details.

On Friday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the unit is currently inactive due to the ongoing investigation into Nichols’ death. 

"It is clear that these officers violated the department’s policies and training," Strickland said in a statement. "I want to assure you we are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again. We are initiating an outside, independent review of the training, policies and operations of our specialized units. Since this event happened, the SCORPION Unit has been, and remains, inactive."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.