Activists call to end special crime units within Memphis Police Department

Published: Feb. 4, 2023 at 7:38 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A crowd of around 100 gathered at the Shelby County Courthouse Saturday afternoon to demand justice for Tyre Nichols—and to say disbanding the SCORPION Unit isn’t enough. Now, activists demand an end to all special crime units within Memphis Police Department.

“The theory was good, but not in practice,” Kelli Gates told Action News 5.

In the wake of five SCORPION officers charged with Tyre Nichols’ death, activists say they’ve been trying to call attention to their intimidation tactics. They also say specialized police units lack oversight, which allows them to use violence with impunity.

“We’re saying ‘we have to heavily police people’ but it turns into us terrorizing and beating people,” said organizer Amber Sherman. “Instead of stopping someone in the midst of a crime they’re using pretextual traffic stops to stop black people.”

Gates told Action News 5 that she understands and supports police using authority to get real criminals. But  she added, “we have to get better ways of measuring how far is too far and we have to get better checks and balances.”

Frank Gottie, a well-known local activist, said officers are meant to protect and serve “not beat us.”

“CJ [Davis] has to stop hiding and come out and talk to us,” Gottie added. “You said you were down with the protest before you came here, so show us.”

Action News 5 has reached out to the Memphis Police Department to schedule an interview with Chief CJ Davis multiple times over the last week. At the time of this writing, our requests have all been denied.

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