Tuesday, 06 June 2023 01:26 GMT

DOJ to Review Use of Force Policies in Wake of Memphis Police Department's SCORPION Unit

(MENAFN) The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Wednesday that it will conduct a review of specialized police units and use of force policies in response to the controversy surrounding the Memphis Police Department's now-disbanded SCORPION unit. This follows the charging of five officers from the unit with second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the beating and subsequent death of Tyre Nichols.

The DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will conduct the reviews, which were requested by Memphis mayor Jim Strickland and police chief Cerelyn J. Davis. The review of the Memphis Police Department will examine policies, practices, training, data, and processes related to use of force, de-escalation, and specialized units. The COPS office will issue a public report outlining its findings and recommendations.

The review of specialized units will be separate from the Memphis review, and the COPS office will produce a guide for police chiefs and mayors across the country to help them assess the appropriateness of the use of such units. The document will provide guidance on how to ensure necessary management and oversight of specialized units, including review of policies, tactics, training, supervision, accountability, and transparency.

The DOJ's decision to conduct the reviews follows the backlash that specialized units have faced in recent years. CBS News senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge reported in January that these groups are intended to fight rising crime rates in major cities but that the officers in the Memphis SCORPION unit were new to the force and had a very short training period. Bill Bratton, the former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and former commissioner of the New York City Police Department, told CBS News at the time that these types of units "require significant supervision."

There is no official data on the number of anti-crime specialized units nationwide, but similar issues have been reported in other cities. In Atlanta, an anti-drug unit called "Red Dog" was shut down in 2011 after officers were accused of using excessive force during a traffic stop and gay bar raid. In Baltimore, a Gun Trace Task Force was disbanded after eight officers were convicted of racketeering and extortion, and the city paid out over $16 million dollars across 37 settlements.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta expressed hope that the COPS guide on specialized units would be a critical resource for law enforcement, mayors, and community members committed to effective community policing that respects the dignity of community members and keeps people safe. The DOJ's reviews aim to ensure appropriate management, oversight, and accountability for specialized units and promote effective and fair use of force policies across police departments in the country.


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