Guard dogs are at odds with specialized units of the Chicago Police

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Memphis Police SCORPION Unit, which included the officers behind the fatal beating of Tire Nichols, disbanded over the weekend after video of the attack was released.

As CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey reported, some vigilantes have been asking if the Chicago police need to take a look at their own specialized units.

Watchdogs say the CPD unit that most closely resembles the unit in Memphis has been disbanded after an investigation led to charges and prison sentences for the Chicago police officers involved. They say we also need to keep an eye on an active unit called the Community Safety Team.

As protests raged across the US, the Memphis Police Department announced Saturday that the SCORPION unit, which consists of 40 officers and was launched in 2021 to combat violent crime, would be disbanding.

“Whether you give them fancy names like Special Ops or SCORPIONS, bad idea,” said Craig Futterman, a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago, “not being accountable to the community creates a lot of harm.”

Futterman said Chicago also has a long history of specialized units violating the rights of residents they are supposed to protect.

One of the so-called “elite” units that resembled the Memphis SCORPION unit was the Special Operations Section (or SOS) Unit, which was disbanded in October 2007.

As CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov reported at the time, the Special Operations Section, an elite anti-drug and gang squad, had been under scrutiny for a year when it was disbanded.

In 2006, former officer Jerome Finnigan and six other special operations police officers were charged with violently robbing the homes of innocent residents and drug dealers, and video has since surfaced of officers illegally searching a bar’s patrons.

Finnigan was later charged with conspiring to kill another officer as well, because he believed the officer was cooperating with the SOS unit’s investigation. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2011.

In September 2007, three other members of the SOS unit had their badges removed and assigned desk work after surveillance camera video at a bar contradicted officers’ account of a search and arrests there. .

Agents said in a police report that they searched Reymundo Martínez outside the bar in March 2004 because he was drinking in public. and they arrested him when they found a plastic bag of cocaine sticking out of his sleeve. Video from inside and outside the bar showed more than two dozen SOS members breaking into the bar and searching everyone and showed them arresting Martinez inside.

“Recent incidents involving officer misconduct have been discouraging and demoralizing, especially for the officers who serve this department with honor every day,” the then-acting police superintendent said. Dana Starks announcing the disbandment of special operations in 2007.

In 2013, University of Illinois at Chicago professors Dick Simpson and John Hagedorn tracked police misconduct for 50 years and found that more than 300 officers in that time had been convicted of felonies, a third of them for trafficking. illegal drugs, gun sales and gangs. activity.

“We have an out-of-control crime and corruption situation in the Police Department itself that needs to be seriously addressed,” Simpson told CBS 2’s Chris Martinez in 2013.

Futterman said the SOS unit in Chicago can easily be compared to the SCORPION Unit in Memphis.

“And that’s exactly what we saw in Memphis. That’s what we see in Chicago, particularly with units like SOS,” Futterman said. “It’s like, ‘Are you showing me any disrespect? Do you run? You’re going to get beat up.'”

Futterman also points to the current Chicago Police Community Safety Team, which was formed in 2020 to “enhance relationships and build trust in the community.”

But CBS 2 investigators have already found problems with the lack of oversight in that specialized unit. Futterman argues that it should also be dissolved.

“The reality is, it’s the SCORPION team in lipstick,” Futterman said.

We are reaching out to CPD regarding the current status of the Community Safety Team and any additional monitoring in light of developments in Memphis.

On Monday night, we were still waiting for a response. Of course we will continue to follow up.