Chris Gelardi


‘Hot Spot’ Cops Killed Tyre Nichols in Memphis. Hochul Wants More in New York.

Read the full piece in New York FocuS, The American Prospect, and Central Current

“We’re doubling down,” Governor Kathy Hochul said last week of her policing agenda. Three days before the city of Memphis, Tennessee, released four videos of officers with its police department’s SCORPION street crime unit beating Tyre Nichols to death, Hochul spoke at a police intelligence hub in Albany, touting plans to ramp up state government support for similar squads in New York.

The SCORPION unit, which the Memphis Police Department announced it was disbanding on Saturday, was a “hot spot” policing team, tasked with flooding crime-dense urban areas with street cops in the hopes of smothering interpersonal violence. Such units have popped up across the country in recent years — including in New York, where Hochul is planning to funnel tens of millions of dollars to initiatives focused on hot spot policing and related strategies.

The governor’s policing agenda centers on beefing up a grant program that pushes local law enforcement to aggressively patrol crime-dense communities, closely monitor their members, and compile information on likely “offenders.” The initiative, the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) program, focuses on shootings, but grantees have used its resources to tackle everything from drug crime to parole enforcement. Hochul doubled funding for GIVE last year, and has proposed doubling it again in this year’s state budget.

A spokesperson for the governor noted that GIVE is a “nationally recognized program that requires participating agencies to use proven, evidence-based strategies” to drive down gun violence. Grantee departments “must engage with the community, use procedural justice,” and submit their implementation plans to the state for approval. The spokesperson rejected any comparison between GIVE and Memphis’s SCORPION unit — “there are no similarities,” they said — but did not address the policing concepts that undergird both initiatives.

Hot spot policing can drive significant short-term crime reductions, research has found, but cops often employ violent tactics in their pursuit. The units have been responsible for some of the highest-profile instances of police abuse in recent years, including the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

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