USA Memphis police dismantle Scorpion unit involved in fatal arrest

USA: Memphis police dismantle ‘Scorpion’ unit involved in fatal arrest of Tire Nichols

By Le Figaro with AFP

Posted 1 hour ago, updated 2 minutes ago

The young man died in hospital three days after the beating. The five police officers involved were fired, charged with murder and imprisoned.

Memphis Police Department announced on Saturday the disbanding of the task force involved in the beating that resulted in the death of a young African American man in early January. The video shocked the United States.

On Saturday, police in Memphis, Tennessee (southern United States) said in a statement that “it is in everyone’s interest to permanently dismantle the SCORPION unit.” “Police officers currently assigned to the unit have given their approval,” the statement added. Tire Nichols’ family hailed the decision in a press release from his attorneys, saying it was “both appropriate and proportionate to the tragic death of Tire Nichols,” but also “decent and fair for all citizens of Memphis.”

Kicks, punches and batons

The shocking images of the fatal arrest of 29-year-old Tire Nichols by five black police officers have caused horror and incomprehension in the United States, but without triggering the social explosion similar to that of summer 2020 that the authorities feared. Video released by police shows an unbearable beating after a mundane traffic stop on Jan. 7 in Memphis. The police attacked the young man with fists, feet and batons, sprayed him with tear gas and aimed a Taser stun gun at him. At no point do we see Tire Nichols retaliate. He tries to run away, gets caught. “Mom. Mom. Mom!” he yells in one of the excerpts. Tire Nichols died three days later at a Memphis hospital.

Rallies of a few dozen to a few hundred people were held in several cities including Memphis, New York and Washington on Friday night. On Saturday afternoon, in the rain and cold, several dozen protesters gathered in front of Memphis City Hall, a towering concrete block building. To the tune of “No Justice No Peace” and with signs calling for “Justice for Tire Nichols,” the protesters then marched through the otherwise quiet streets of Memphis.

The five police officers were fired, charged with murder and imprisoned. Four of them were later released on bail. On Friday, the family, while appalled, said they were “satisfied” with the charges against the five police officers and praised the “swiftness” of action taken against them.

ā€œInstitutionalized Police Cultureā€

“It could have been me,” instead of Tire Nichols, after seeing the video, responded Demarcus Carter, a 36-year-old African American man who lives in Memphis, who expected the protests to get bigger. But as soon as a court case has taken place, “if the verdict is wrong, the demonstrations will get bigger,” he predicted. Some questions remain unanswered after the arrest footage was released. For example, the video does not show the beginning of the interaction between Tire Nichols and the group.

This new death after an arrest has reignited debate over police brutality in the country, where the memory of George Floyd, killed by a white police officer in 2020, remains alive with a sense that the large-scale demonstrations that followed have not resolved the issue.

Ben Crump, one of the Tire Nichols family lawyers who defended George Floyd’s family, blamed an “institutionalized policing culture.” “It doesn’t matter if the cop is black, Hispanic or white (…). There are unwritten rules that a person belonging to a certain ethnic group can be treated with excessive force,” he told MSNBC on Saturday.