Federal authorities are investigating the Baton Rouge police department after lawsuits allege officers “may have abused their authority."
The release comes after a string of federal lawsuits against the BRPD, where officers are accused of torturing civilians in an unmarked warehouse known as the “Brave Cave," a name linked to the extinct Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination initiative.
“That Brave unit was disbanded a few years ago because of misconduct. So for a facility like this to still be in use by the current street crimes unit, which included some of the former Brave members... It calls into question the accountability,” said Jessica Hawkins, attorney for Ternell Brown and Jeremy Lee.
The most recent lawsuit alleges officers “sexually humiliated" a woman after she was stopped on suspicion of criminal wrongdoing while carrying prescription pills.
After being stopped, she was later taken to the warehouse for examination and strip-searched for contraband.
“The policy of the department allows for these strip searches to occur,” said Hawkins.
She was released without charges after officers concluded the prescription drugs on hand were legal.
"She's still physically and emotionally shaken by this,” said Ryan Thompson, attorney for Ternell Brown and Jeremy Lee.
That lawsuit comes after another lawsuit filed last month claims Jeremy Lee suffered injuries after officers beat him at the unmarked warehouse. Lee was also not charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
A Baton Rouge police officer, Troy Lawrence Jr., resigned last month after Lee’s lawsuit and is reportedly facing a misdemeanor battery charge in an unrelated incident.
"Once he entered into the warehouse, he said he was instantly attacked by Mr. Lawrence and several other officers. Another officer performed a leg sweep, and he said what transpired there was what he described as a gang-style beating,” said Thompson.
In a statement sent to Scripps News, the Baton Rouge police department said it’s “committed to addressing these troubling accusations."
The “Brave Cave” has been permanently closed, and the department’s “street crimes unit” that used the warehouse has been disbanded and reassigned.
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