I-TEAM: High-ranking deputy chief on leave; union questions timing

One of the highest-ranking members of the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) has now been placed on leave.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 12:57 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - One of the highest-ranking members of the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) has now been placed on leave as a federal probe widens into the department’s secretive Brave Cave and other questionable police actions first exposed by the WAFB I-TEAM.

A BRPD spokesman confirms that Deputy Chief Troy Lawrence, Sr., is the latest officer to be placed on leave amid three separate investigations into the Brave Cave, a secretive warehouse where officers are accused of beating and illegally searching people in their custody.

Troy Lawrence, Sr. has been a trusted advisor to BRPD Chief Murphy Paul, serving as one of four deputy chiefs who report directly to the chief.

The deputy chief’s son, Troy Lawrence, Jr. resigned amid allegations of abuse not long after the WAFB I-TEAM exposed potential wrongdoing within the Brave Cave facility last month. Two other members of the street crimes unit, Jesse Barcelona and Todd Thomas, are also on leave but the department has not given clarity on what led to either of those two moves.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome issued a vague statement Wednesday afternoon about Troy Lawrence, Sr. being placed on leave. The statement said:

The department is also facing three federal lawsuits tied to the infamous facility and alleged misconduct by former officer Troy Lawrence, Jr. The first one was from an encounter between the former officer and several men who he told to leave the front of a hospital back in January. Another lawsuit was filed after Jeremy Lee was arrested. Lee was allegedly beaten so badly inside the Brave Cave, that once officers finally took him to be booked into jail, the jail wouldn’t take him unless he was treated at the hospital first.

The latest complaint stems from a traffic stop in June where a woman and her husband, who asked not to be identified, were pulled over along Plank Road for their window tint. Not long after, members of the street crimes unit had the couple outside the car, asking about drugs. During the search, police found a gun the woman legally owned and a dollar’s worth of marijuana inside the car, but they zeroed in on some pills they found. The woman tried repeatedly to tell them she had a prescription for the pills but the body camera video shows the officers would not listen.

There’s no law on the books in Louisiana that says people can’t mix medications as long as they can show proof that they have a prescription. While there’s no video of the rest of the encounter, the woman claims she was later taken to the Brave Cave where she was stripped naked before a female officer and forced to go through a body cavity search. When officers did not find what they were looking for at the traffic stop, her attorney says the woman was then allowed to finally show proof of her prescriptions and allowed to leave without being charged with anything.

Another complaint, exposed by the WAFB I-TEAM, reveals a man named Jeremy Lee was allegedly beaten so badly inside the Brave Cave following his January arrest that he had to receive medical treatment.

Late Wednesday evening, leaders for the Baton Rouge Union of Police said its members were “disheartened and dismayed by the decision to place Lawrence Sr. on leave. Union leaders said the incident that sparked the decision occurred more than 3 years ago, but did not go into specifics. The union’s leaders allege the decision will tarnish Lawrence Sr.’s reputation. Read the full statement below:

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