Memphis Police Under Investigation by DOJ

( – Months after the brutal beating and ultimate death of Tyre Nichols by the SCORPION unit of the Memphis Police Department, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is opening a civil rights investigation. The investigation will be looking into the city government as well as the police department to see if they “engaged in a prohibited pattern or practice.” If there is a systemic issue that needs to be remedied, the DOJ will file another lawsuit to force the changes. The DOJ will be reviewing the department’s methods of policing, including the use of force and whether there is discrimination involved. The SCORPION unit had only been in operation since 2021 when Nichols was killed during a traffic stop.

Five Memphis police offers who were part of the unit were fired and charged with their role in Nichols’ death, with body camera footage showing that the officers had lied about how the tragedy occurred. All five officers pleaded not guilty in February to a second-degree murder charge, along with six other charges. Police officers around the country wholly condemned the actions of the officers, but renewed calls for police reform immediately ensued. Memphis residents held a peaceful vigil on the Interstate 55 Mississippi River bridge that ended with no violence, unlike previous protests seen in 2020 after the killing of George Floyd.

The SCORPION unit was dissolved after Nichols’ death, and the DOJ has utilized its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) department to guide the Memphis Police Department in its development of policies and methods of policing. The department is also working with police departments across the nation to determine if and when specialized units within departments are necessary to protect citizens. The Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission reported an increase in most types of crimes in 2023, with 81 murders in the city by April. With Memphis, Tennessee listed as the fourth most dangerous city in the United States, the city certainly needs good police officers to enforce the law, but the DOJ will be assisting in weeding out the bad ones.

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