Class action lawsuit claims BRPD’s strip search policy is illegitimate & humiliating

BATON ROUGE — Baton Rouge residents have filed a class action federal lawsuit against City/Parish and Chief of Police, Murphy Paul. It was filed on Sept. 29, 2023. The complaint alleges that the strip search policy used by the Baton Rouge Police Department violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Plaintiffs to the Class Action

Bobby Hardnett is the named class member, and is seeking monetary damages for himself and the proposed class members. Hardnett was taken into custody by BRPD in January 2023 where he says he was strip searched without probable cause or individualized reasonable suspicion.

He was taken to a “police building,” off of Plank Road. No weapons or other contraband were found on him, according to the filed suit. There was no evidence of criminal activity. Hardnett was released with no charges. Hardnett was forced to strip naked, bend over, and spread his buttocks while police officers examined his entire body, according to the complaint.

It is unknown how many people were impacted by the strip-search policy implemented by BRPD. The complaints seek individuals to join the class action, particularly those who meet the following criteria:

All persons who have been or will be taken into the custody of the Baton Rouge Police Department and were or will be strip-searched by Baton Rouge Police Officers without probable cause or individualized reasonable suspicion, pursuant to the policy and/ or practice of the Baton Rouge Police Department The class period commences on September 29, 2020 and extends to the present or until the Defendants are enjoined from, or otherwise cease, their unconstitutional policy and/ or practice of conducting strip searches absent probable cause or individualized reasonable suspicion. Specifically excluded from the class are Defendants and any and all of their respective affiliates, legal representatives, heirs, successors, employees or assignees. 

Paragraph 8 of the Complaint

General Allegations

According to the complaint, BRPD utilized strip searches without probable cause or individualized reasonable suspicion, which are requirements to conduct a search of a potential suspect.

Along with monetary damages, the complaint asks for a declaration that the BRPD strip-search policy is unconstitutional, and an injunction stopping BRPD from continuing the strip-search policy. It is alleged that this practice is systemically violating the rights of individuals who are taken into BRPD’s custody.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits strip searches except in very limited circumstances because the practice is humiliating to the individual being searched. The officer conducting the search must have probable cause or individualized suspicion to believe the person has a weapon or contraband.

Despite these prohibitions, BRPD allows its officers to conduct strip searches of individuals who have not been arrested. It is alleged that BRPD officers bring individuals to “police buildings” before establishing the necessary probable cause.

Generally, the complaint asserts that this practice was illegitimate, humiliating, denigrating, and intimidating for the individuals being searched. It claims that the officers who conducted these searches knew that this policy/practice violated the constitution.

Keeping up with BRPD

This lawsuit comes after the FBI investigation into the “brave cave.” UWK has reported on the most recent BRPD issues:

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