The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into claims that the police department for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, abused and tortured suspects, the FBI announced Friday.
Numerous lawsuits allege that the Street Crimes Unit of the Baton Rouge Police Departmentdrug suspects at a recently shuttered narcotics processing center — an unmarked warehouse nicknamed the "Brave Cave."
The FBI said experienced prosecutors and agents are "reviewing allegations that members of the department may have abused their authority."
Baton Rouge police said in a statement that its chief, Murphy Paul "met with FBI officials and requested their assistance to ensure an independent review of these complaints."
In late August, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced that the "Brave Cave" was being permanently closed, and that the Street Crimes Unit was also being disbanded.
This comes as a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week by Ternell Brown, a grandmother, alleges that police officers conducted an unlawful strip-search on her.
The lawsuit alleges that officers pulled over Brown while she was driving with her husband near her Baton Rouge neighborhood in a black Dodge Charger in June. Police officers ordered the couple out of the car and searched the vehicle, finding pills in a container, court documents said. Brown said the pills were prescription and she was in "lawful possession" of the medication. Police officers became suspicious when they found she was carrying two different types of prescription pills in one container, the complaint said.
Officers then, without Brown's consent or a warrant, the complaint states, took her to the unit's "Brave Cave." The Street Crimes Unit used the warehouse as its "home base," the lawsuit alleged, to conduct unlawful strip searches.
Police held Brown for two hours, the lawsuit reads, during which she was told to strip, and after an invasive search, "she was released from the facility without being charged with a crime."
"What occurred to Mrs. Brown is unconscionable and should never happen in America," her attorney, Ryan Keith Thompson, said in a statement to CBS News.
Baton Rouge police said in its statement Friday that it was "committed to addressing these troubling accusations," adding that it has "initiated administrative and criminal investigations."
The Justice Department said its investigation is being conducted by the FBI, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Louisiana.
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