Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said Friday he is renaming his department’s Scorpion Unit less than three months after Memphis officers in a similarly named unit beat a man to death.
The elite unit will now be known as the Fugitive Apprehension Support Team, or FAST. It will still have the same mission, Labat said, but the officers who killed Tyre Nichols on Jan. 7, former members of their department’s Scorpion unit, cast “dishonor and suspicion” on the name.
“Changing the name of our elite unit was an important step we believed needed to be taken,” the sheriff said in an emailed statement. “However, as the name “SCORPION” was not the root problem in the horrific actions in Memphis, the name change for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office is not a finite solution. We regularly review our operations, and training protocols, in alignment with our mission to serve the citizens of Fulton County with integrity, honor, and respect.”
The five Memphis police officers were fired and charged with murder, and their department’s Scorpion Unit was disbanded. Labat announced in late January he was considering the name change.
Graphic video showed the Memphis police officers repeatedly kicking, punching, pepper-spraying and using their Tasers on the unarmed 29-year-old Nichols during a traffic stop. The incident has prompted police reform activists across the country to question specialized law enforcement units — many of which are named after intimidating animals. Critics say such “elite” squads tend to attract more aggressive officers and typically function with far less oversight.
Fulton County’s 14-member crime-suppression unit was formed in 2021, months after Labat took office. At the time, a spokeswoman said the “seasoned veterans” assigned to the Scorpion Unit would be tasked with getting violent criminals off the streets.
THE FAST UNIT’S MISSION STATEMENT
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office FAST unit is focused on suppressing crime, apprehending violent criminals, and reducing gang-related crimes. Members of the FCSO FAST Unit are responsible for providing proactive interdiction in areas of Fulton County experiencing a high number of violent crimes, street-level narcotics crimes, as well as gang activity. The FCSO FAST Unit is also tasked with identifying crime patterns, repeat offenders, and deploying legal resources to arrest criminal perpetrators.
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