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DOJ releases guidance on special police units 1 year after Tyre Nichols’ death

Jan 10

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One year after a specialized Memphis police unit, SCORPION, beat Tyre Nichols, who later died from his injuries, the U.S. Justice Department is releasing guidance to ensure police accountability. Calls for police accountability were already echoing across the country as videos and news similar to Nichols’ death spread online.

While some police departments have taken proactive steps to address community concerns regarding these specialized units, the DOJ is issuing guidance for specialized police units nationwide.

In a report set to be released on Wednesday, Jan. 10, officials are urging police departments to assess whether specialized units are needed to solve community issues and, if they are genuinely needed, ensure members have a clean history and there is proper oversight.

With names like SCORPION, wolfpack, COBRA, and strike forces, specialized police units have been routinely called into question whether they are community-oriented.

The new DOJ guidance said that the names alone can “emphasize and further separate the agency from the community and perpetuate the ‘us versus them’ mentality.”

While the guidance notes that specialized units have the potential to keep communities safe, police leaders and elected officials must ask the right questions when assessing community needs and making fact-based decisions. Like how long a unit will need to operate and set term limits.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta told NPR that the goal is to create guidance for management and accountability in local police departments.

“Our hope is that the guide is going to help law enforcement avoid the bad and sometimes very tragic outcomes we’ve seen from such units including what we saw happen a year ago,” Gupta said.

The guide is separate from an already ongoing DOJ Civil Rights Department investigation into the Memphis Police Department, which is looking into a possible pattern of excessive force.

As for the 5 Memphis police officers who were charged for the violent confrontation with Tyre Nichols, one has pleaded guilty in connection with the beating, while the four others pleaded not guilty to state and federal charges. Their trials are set for later this year.

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OFFICER: “GET THE F*** OUT THE F**** CAR.”

TYREE NICHOLS: “D***, I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING.”

OFFICER: “TURN YOUR A*** AROUND.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

IT’S BEEN NEARLY A YEAR SINCE POLICE RELEASED THIS** FOOTAGE TO THE PUBLIC,

THE ENTIRE NATION WATCHED AS TYRE NICHOLS WAS BEATEN BY A SPECIALIZED MEMPHIS POLICE TEAM CALLED SCORPION, NICHOLS DIED THREE DAYS LATER.

CALLS FOR POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY WERE ECHOED ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

WHILE SOME POLICE DEPARTMENT HAVE TAKEN PROACTIVE STEPS TO ADDRESS COMMUNITY CONCERNS REGARDING THESE SPECIALIZED UNITS.

THE U-S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT WEDNESDAY  ANSWERED SOME OF THESE NATIONWIDE CALLS WITH NEW GUIDANCE FOR POLICE DEPARTMENTS NATIONWIDE.

THE NEW GUIDELINES URGE POLICE DEPARTMENTS TO ASSESS WHETHER SPECIALIZED UNITS ARE TRULY NEEDED TO SOLVE COMMUNITY ISSUES

WITH NAMES LIKE SCORPION, WOLFPACK, COBRA, STRIKE FORCES – THAT QUESTION HAS BECOME MORE COMMON. 

THE DOJ NOTING THAT THE NAMES ALONE 

“EMPHASIZE AND FURTHER SEPARATE THE AGENCY FROM THE COMMUNITY AND PERPETUATE THE ‘US VERSUS THEM’ MENTALITY.”

 AND IF THEY ARE NECESSARY,  LEADERS NEED TO ENSURE THE UNITS’ MEMBERS HAVE CLEAN HISTORIES, AND PROVIDE PROPER OVERSIGHT.

WHILE THE GUIDE NOTES THAT SPECIALIZED UNITS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO KEEP COMMUNITIES SAFE, POLICE LEADERS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS MUST ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS WHEN ASSESSING COMMUNITY NEEDS. LIKE HOW LONG WILL A UNIT NEED TO OPERATE AND SETTING TERM LIMITS.

THE GUIDE IS SEPARATE FROM AN ONGOING DOJ CIVIL RIGHTS INVESTIGATION INTO THE MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT LOOKING INTO A POSSIBLE PATTERN OF EXCESSIVE FORCE.

AS FOR THE 5 MEMPHIS POLICE OFFICERS WHO WERE FIRED FOR THE VIOLENT CONFRONTATION WITH TYRE NICHOLS, ONE HAS PLEADED GUILTY IN CONNECTION WITH THE BEATING, WHILE THE FOUR OTHERS PLEADED NOT GUILTY TO STATE AND FEDERAL CHARGES. THEIR TRIALS ARE SET FOR THIS LATER YEAR.