Vox: The fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, explained

Nicole Narea, Sean Collins, and Ellen Ioanes reporting for Vox:

As Lauren Bonds, the executive director of the National Police Accountability Project, told Vox in an interview Friday, “so many of the high-profile police killings that we’ve seen in recent years have started out as a traffic stop — started out as an expired tag, reckless driving, fines or warrants due.”

“One thing I’d say about the murder of Tyre in particular is that these officers were all part of a specific unit that was essentially designed to engage in, more or less, broken-windows policing, enforcing low-level offenses in order to identify higher-level crimes,” Bonds said.

The unit that Bonds referred to is called SCORPION, or the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods; it was founded in 2021, ostensibly to address violent street crime in Memphis by flooding high-crime areas with officers from the hand-picked special unit. In 2021, according to the New York Times, Memphis had 346 homicides; in September, the city was on edge after a teacher was abducted and murdered, and days later a gunman shot and killed four people.


On Saturday, the Memphis Police Department announced that it had disbanded its SCORPION unit, which had previously been suspended after Nichols was beaten by officers in the unit.

The fact that both Nichols and the officers accused of his murder are Black isn’t unusual, either in Memphis or in other incidents of police brutality. Memphis is “a pretty Black city,” Bonds said; both the city and its police department are majority Black, and the department is led by a Black chief of police.

Ultimately, Bonds said, the race of those carrying out the violence is incidental.

“It’s systemic, and it’s ultimately state violence, which doesn’t really have a color except for the color of the people who are in power in this country,” she said. “So to say that there are no racial implications because there’s a Black victim and Black officers involved is a really myopic way of looking at the problem.”

This is a comprehensive article, and is an absolute must read.

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