Four Baton Rouge police department officers were hit with criminal charges after an internal investigation found the officers tried to hide evidence of using excessive force in an incident that happened several years ago.
At least three of the four officers have been arrested.
The charges come after allegations that some of the department’s officers abused civilians at an unmarked warehouse known as the “Brave Cave.”
Multiple investigations into the department’s practices are underway, including by the FBI.
The Baton Rouge police department says it is committed to addressing the accusations and has nine administrative investigations underway, according to Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul.
“There is no room for misconduct or unethical behavior in our department. No one is above the law, and that includes members of our own department,” said Paul.
At least three officers have been put on administrative leave, including deputy chief Troy Lawrence Sr., whose son, former officer Troy Lawrence Jr., resigned from the police force last month after multiple abuse allegations.
Chief Paul told reporters on Friday that the charges against the four officers stem from an incident that took place in 2020 inside a Baton Rouge police department bathroom where officers attempted to do a strip search.
Body camera footage shows the actions of the officers were in violation of the department’s policy and used excessive force, according to the chief of police.
“A plan was then made to cover up the incident and get rid of the body camera. Based on our investigative efforts, four officers were charged,” said Paul.
The department is facing an FBI investigation and several lawsuits where officers are accused of torturing civilians in an unmarked warehouse known by officers as the “Brave Cave," a name linked to the now-extinct Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination initiative.
One lawsuit alleges officers “sexually humiliated” a grandmother after she was taken to the warehouse for examination and strip-searched for contraband.
Another lawsuit claims one man suffered injuries after officers beat him at the unmarked warehouse.
Both were released without charges.
“The policy of the department allows for these strip searches to occur,” said attorney Jessica Hawkins.
Hawkins, who is representing the plaintiffs, told Scripps News that the warehouse has been used for over a decade.
“These people are not being provided attorneys, and their rights are being violated as soon as they're brought into the facility and stripped,” said Hawkins.
The street crimes unit has been disbanded and reassigned, according to the city’s mayor, who acknowledged that the police department has a long history of corruption and said it will do what it can to restore the public’s trust.
“An agency-level culture shift will be very difficult to change, but it can and will be done with diligence, with time, and most important, with consistency," said Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome.
As the department tries to restore the public’s trust and continues to investigate allegations, the city is also looking at candidates for Baton Rouge’s next police chief.
The current chief announced two months ago that he would be stepping down.
Chief Paul will continue until a new chief is appointed in November.
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