Four officers in now-disbanded police unit charged in cover-up of 2020 beating

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Four officers associated with a now-disbanded unit of the Baton Rouge Police Department have been indicted by a Louisiana grand jury on charges alleging that they covered up the beating of a suspect in custody.

The charges stem from an attempted strip search in September 2020, when two officers from the Street Crimes Unit allegedly hit a suspect and shocked him with their stun guns. The episode was captured by body-worn cameras that the officers didn’t know were turned on.

The four were members of the unit. They were indicted for alleged malfeasance in office and charges related to obstruction of justice, according to Baton Rouge news outlets.

The beating happened after police swarmed an area where a music video was being shot, according to warrants. A suspect was brought to a police precinct to be strip-searched in the bathroom. Documents said the suspect was stripped naked and beaten for not complying.

One of the officers pulled out his Taser, and his body-worn camera was immediately activated.

The arrest warrant for the officers said the camera was later hidden and never returned. The accused officers later conspired to write a letter, falsely claiming the body camera was missing or lost, the department said.

The charges come as the FBI pursues a civil rights investigation into allegations made in lawsuits last year that officers assaulted detainees in an obscure warehouse known as the “ Brave Cave.”

Soon after the allegations arose, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome ordered the facility closed. The police department disbanded the street crimes unit.

“This was an isolated incident. This is not an indictment on the Baton Rouge Police Department,” District Attorney Hillar Moore said at a Tuesday news conference to announce the indictments.

“These indictments reaffirm our dedication to police reform and accountability,” Broome said in a news release. “The indictments should not reflect on the vast majority of Baton Rouge Police officers who are committed to professionalism.”