Retired NYPD Sergeant of 20 Years, Caller Henry Asks Questions About the Memphis Scorpion Unit’s Supervisor
Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed 20-year veteran of the NYPD, retired sergeant Henry to the call-in line who gave his expertise and questioned the supervision of the Memphis Police Department’s Scorpion Unit charged in the second-degree murder of Tyre Nichols.
Leahy: We are joined by Henry on our call-in line right now by Henry. Our number is 615-737-9522. I posed this question. We’ve got a story out Memphis PD on Claims Tyre Nichols Was Targeted and Former Officers Charged with Murder Were Gang Members. Their response to that, when we questioned them about that, they said, “There is no evidence that indicates that either of these claims is true.” Henry, what do you make of that response from the Memphis Police Department?
Caller Henry: Good morning, Mike. They’re not going to answer you because it’s all going to be under investigation. So it’ll come out. If that’s true, they’re going to do cell phone records, they’re going to do interviews, and that will all be found out. The only thing I want to add is, where was the supervision?
If you have a unit like this, usually it would be like a sergeant for like eight or 10 officers or then a lieutenant over him, and they’d be on patrol with him also. And even if that unit didn’t have a supervisor, where was the supervisor that was on patrol in Memphis? This is all over the radio.
I would suppose that they’re putting on a pursuit and that the sergeant immediately has to respond and needs to find out what the pursuit is about to call it off in case it’s going to cause injuries to civilians. I think it’s going to go up the chain and even as far as maybe the police commissioner if she set up this unit without any supervision.
Leahy: Henry, from the way you responded to that question, I have an indication that you perhaps have some law enforcement experience.
Henry: Yes, I’m a retired sergeant from the NYPD.
Leahy: How many years were you with the NYPD? How many years were you with the NYPD?
Leahy: You know what you’re talking about, then.
Henry: Yes. So this is all going to be like, where was the sergeant? As I said, it’s mandatory up in New York. And I would think in any municipal police department; there has to be a supervisor out there. And like I said, even if he wasn’t part of the Scorpion Unit, where was the supervisor?
Leahy: Henry, you’re driving right now. Do you live in middle Tennessee now?
Henry: Living here, yes.
Leahy: What do you do here now for a living? Are you just retired?
Henry: Yeah, I’m just retired.
Leahy: Good. How closely have you followed this case?
Henry: Just like everybody else watching it on TV and I mean, it’s horrible. And this poor guy, he didn’t do anything wrong. I think it sounds like it is like a vendetta because even the way they approach the car, even if this car was stolen and reckless driving, no police officer is just going to run up to the door and open up that door and maybe face a gun. The whole tactics, everything was just ridiculous.
Leahy: Yes, it sounds like this was a violation of every police protocol that I’ve heard about. Of course, I don’t have any law enforcement experience, but you do. Let me kind of talk about this a little bit and get your reaction. This Scorpion Unit was supposedly an elite unit of only 40 members out of a 2,000-member police department set up by the chief of police, Cerelyn Davis, and Mayor Jim Strickland, a Democrat, back in October of 2021.
It’s been there for a little more than a year. Of these five police officers who’ve been charged with second-degree murder, apparently, all five of them were members of this Scorpion Unit. What we have is 12 percent of these officers in the Scorpion Unit were clearly violating standard police protocol.
None of them apparently had more than five years of experience on the police force. We have tried to find out who their immediate supervisor was from the Memphis Police Department. They have not told us that.
And we’ve looked at the organizational structure of the Memphis Police Department, and you go from the police chief down to an assistant police chief, to a deputy chief, to a Lieutenant Prentiss Jolly, who is in charge of the organized crime unit that has 12 departments in it.
The Scorpion Unit, now disbanded, was one of those 12 departments. We can’t get the Memphis Police Department to tell us who was directly responsible for supervising this unit. That seems to me to be not exactly transparent. Your thoughts on this, Henry?
Henry: Yes, well, it depends on, as you said, who was the supervisor. It sounds like there wasn’t because that person would have been there or responded. And even after they’re waiting for EMS to arrive, there’s still no one of supervision to arrive.
So it leads you to believe that the structure or something doesn’t have it, or at least on that shift or that time, which is wrong. And the indication is, with everybody just having under five years, there’s not a lot of experience there. I think it boils down to you can’t hire anybody. I think, for example, in Nashville, back five years ago, they were down 180 officers. I don’t know what Memphis is down to.
Leahy: It’s down significantly in Memphis. Henry, thank you for calling in and for your expertise. Call back again if you would, please, on this issue. Thanks for joining us.
Henry: Thank you.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Memphis Police Department Motorcycles” by Memphis Police Department.