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NEW YORK (PIX11) — The Memphis police chief disbanded the city’s so-called Scorpion unit on Saturday, citing a “cloud of dishonor” from newly released video that showed some of its officers beating Tyre Nichols to death after stopping the Black motorist.
Police departments around the United States have similar units, including New York City. For years, people have railed against the NYPD’s anti-crime units and plainclothes units after some of their tactics were deemed unconstitutional, including targeting people of color and using excessive force.
An officer in plainclothes was responsible for the death of Eric Garner in 2014. Since then, New York City has made changes to its policies. Eric Garner’s daughter, Emerald Garner, said that while there have been changes, they haven’t been enough.
Garner has been on the frontlines of police reform. She pointed to the dismantling of the Scorpion unit in Memphis.
“If they can swiftly dismantle this, they can swiftly go in and revamp the policing system,” she said.
New York City disbanded plainclothes, anti-crime units in 2020, but last year Mayor Eric Adams brought back the controversial units in a new form. They rolled out with some new training and policies. They’re in uniform, but use unmarked cars. Their focus is getting guns and gangs off of the streets.
Dr. Keith Taylor, a retired NYPD sergeant and adjunct professor for John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the specialty units are needed as a crime fighting tool. He feels they need better supervision.
“With that anonymity that plainclothes officers have, it requires more supervision and policies that are very clear on what is appropriate and inappropriate,” Dr. Taylor said.
Both Garner and Taylor agree more federal laws are needed to achieve better universal policing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.