Tyre Nichols was laid to rest on Wednesday, the 29-year-old Fedex worker who was pulled over for suspicion of reckless driving on January 7 by the Memphis Police Department. Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy, Vice President Kamala Harris attended the ceremony, and both called for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Fleeing the scene, Nichols’ led the officers on an 800 meter chase to a second encounter where a pole-mounted surveillance camera on Castlegate Lane captured five officers collectively kicking him in the face; striking his back with a baton; tasing his chest and torso; punching and pepper spraying his face. Nichols complained of shortness of breath throughout the three minute encounter, repeatedly calling out for his mother.
Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days later. An autopsy commissioned by his family found that Nichols had suffered "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”
Officers Tadarrius Bean (24), Demetrius Haley (30), Emmitt Martin III (30), Desmond Mills Jr. (32), and Justin Smith (28) — summarily charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, misconduct, oppression and murder — were members of a 40-person special unit called SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods).
Responding to 300+ homicides in 2021, Chief Cerelyn Davis of the Memphis Police explains, “This unit was created to basically target the hot-spot areas where we saw frequent aggravated assaults and high crime.”
"Yet the unit’s main mission appeared to be conducting mass pullovers in poor neighborhoods that are home to many people of color," says Decarcerate Memphis, a group pushing for accountability in the criminal justice system.
The undercover police officers, assembled in October 2021, often drove unmarked cars, randomly dressed in plainclothes, and were trained to target hotspots by predicting where crime scenes might occur. But on January 7, 2023 they went further.
Chief Cerelyn Davis and her scorpions actually created a brutal crime scene on Castlegate Lane.
Predictive policing is the mathematical, predictive analytics in law enforcement that identify potential criminal activity. There are four general predictions including crime, offenders, perpetrators, and victims. Using data from past crimes, including erroneous reports of crime, algorithms generate predictions that produce an automated outcome or strategy that typically sends an officer to the predicted time and place of a future crime.
Predictive policing gathers data to reach consensus on race, income, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, time of day, time of the year, even weather patterns to infer when and where a crime is likely to occur. For instance, if a crime was reported at the Tobey Skate Park on Thursday after 6pm, an algorithm might tell the Memphis Police Department to dispatch officers to skate parks every Thursday evening. Naturally, police officers cruising skate parks on Thursday evenings cause suspicion. Moreover, the officers are predisposed with suspicion while on the errand of an algorithm.
Predict a Crime in Real Time
Using an algorithm designed to predict earthquake aftershocks, UCLA professor Jeff Brantingham partnered with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2010 to create Predpol: a patented predictive policing software. While police forces have long used computers to map crime hotspots to inform policing, algorithms that provide real-time predictions have only proliferated in the past decade. By 2019, over 60+ police departments throughout the U.S. were using predictive policing software. Most were mid-size agencies of 100 to 200 officers, including the Memphis Police Department’s Blue CRUSH.