MPD unit connected to fired officers could disband after Tyre Nichols investigation, expert says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a video statement released late Wednesday night, Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis promised to look into her department’s special units, including the SCORPION Unit, which the group of five former officers charged in connection to Tyre Nichols’ death were a part of.

“It is my intent as a proactive measure to ensure a complete and independent review is conducted on all the Memphis Police Department’s specialized units,” Davis said.

Bennie Cobb, a law enforcement analyst and longtime veteran of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team, said that investigation is absolutely necessary.

He said special units are often dissolved then put back in place as a way of hitting the reset button.

“It absolutely is time to sit down and review who you have working in these units and what these units are doing,” Cobb said.

Cobb said specialized units can include officers focused on DUI investigations, mounted patrols, canine units, the SCORPION Unit, and more.

“They will create a unit to specialize in a particular type of crime or an uptick in crime,” he said. “Over the years, there have been many units similar to the SCORPION Unit but with a different name.”

The night of the confrontation that led to Nichols’ death, dispatchers can be heard on tape calling additional SCORPION Units to the scene.

SCORPION stands for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhood. The unit was created in 2021.

Cobb said there is a chance the unit will be dissolved after the investigation.

“Sometimes you just have to stop, reevaluate, overhaul the whole thing and see if it’s even worth having,” he said.

Cobb said he can recall two times MPD’s TACT Unit was dissolved. Once was in 1991 after a child was shot.

“My unit, the SWAT team, actually came into the city and took over TACT unit duties because that team was dissolved,” he said.

He said the TACT Unit was eventually made anew, then dissolved once more after a house involved in a barricade situation was burned in 2013, before being reformed again.

“If it works, it works. If it doesn’t it may get dissolved, renamed or reevaluated,” he said. “It happens all the time.”

Cobb said as the review moves forward, transparency is key.