'To protect and to serve' is the unofficial motto of many police departments across North America.
For some, the image of a man in a police uniform is a comforting one. It conjures a feeling of safety, the preservation of an ordered and lawful society. We expect that when we're the victims of a crime, these uniformed officers will come to our aid and do their level best to seek justice on our behalf.
Unfortunately, for many residents of North America as a whole, this wholesome image is just an illusion.
Ever since the flurry of Black Lives Matter protests over the past few years, the public has become very aware of the reputation for brutality that many American police forces have. Here in Canada, we've had our fair share of exposé regarding racially motivated violence by police as well.
We've gotten used to seeing captured footage of public beatings, shootings and murder. We've grown used to seeing videos of police violently battering down protestors in the streets, even pepper spraying bound and unresisting activists.
We're used to that. We see that on the news, we see videos of it spread across social media. It's there. But it's what we don't see, the things that are successfully covered up long term, that are the most horrifying.
In August of this year, 2023, the street crime unit of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana police department came under scrutiny. The unit, known as BRAVE (Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination) was finally disbanded after a string of allegations and lawsuits were raised against them.
The main cause of the lawsuits? Well, hold on to your hats folks, 'cause it's awful.
They were running a torture and interrogation cell out of an empty warehouse.
No, you didn't read that wrong. No, it's not the plot of some old 80s dystopian horror flick. The so-called Brave Cave was a real place where people were allegedly taken for 'questioning'.
I mean, what are police officers supposed to do when the law requires you to have a warrant before you search somebody? What are they supposed to do when they want to rough somebody up for a confession, but the law says 'no'? What are they supposed to do when they're required to have body cameras running when talking to suspects?
Obviously, they bypass the law by abducting people without a warrant, taking them to a hidden location and doing whatever they want with their body cams turned off.
It's a handy dandy way to sidestep accountability to the people they're supposedly protecting and serving.
Allegedly, of course. We'll have to wait for the FBI investigation to finish before we can say with certainty what really happened inside the Brave Cave. All we have are the statements of the people who filed the lawsuits.
They're absolutely harrowing.
All of the allegations are horrifying. All of what the alleged victims have described is traumatic and abusive as hell.
I keep getting stuck on imagining what the situation was like through the eyes of Mr. Brown, the husband of one of the people bringing the lawsuit forward. What she says she went through is sickening and disturbing, and I can't really describe it as anything other than abduction and sexual assault.
I imagine it from his perspective because it carries its own unique form of horror.
Imagine you're driving home with your spouse one day, and then the police pull you over without probable cause. They're strangers with guns, and their body cameras are switched off. They search you without a warrant. They find your spouse's prescription medications, and they refuse proof that they were legally obtained.
They take your spouse in handcuffs and tell you to go home.
You don't know where they're taking your spouse, or why. If you call the precinct, you're told that there's no record of your spouse arriving, and they will not tell you where they are.
What do you do? How can you call the cops for help when they're the ones that took your spouse? Do you talk to the news? When the people who took your spouse have guns, and are apparently off the grid?
I know I would be terrified in that scenario. That's some shit straight out of an oppressive authoritarian state.
This isn't even the first case of police departments making use of off the grid sites for this purpose. Some of my readers might be familiar with the famous case of the NATO 3, reportedly held at the Homan Square facility in Chicago.
If there are two, there are likely more places exactly like this, being used for exactly this purpose.
It's ridiculously illegal, and a gross abuse of the basic civil rights of all those who are supposed to be able to depend on the police for help. Quite clearly, not everyone can.
On top of the obvious racially motivated brutality we see in the streets, we have to wonder about what's going on behind closed doors and away from the cameras.
I don't mean this to come across like a conspiracy theory. I'm not saying that there's a network of police departments abducting people, and people living in the United States are not living under a police state. It's tempting to think that, but it's not there yet.
What this represents is a fundamental problem with the culture, training and accountability with the police. They expect to operate above the law, with authority over every day civilians, and to be obeyed. They expect to not be held accountable for crimes when they commit them.
They feel secure enough in their positions to pull shit like this off, and expect to keep doing it for years without anyone raising hell. And they're able to do it because people are afraid to speak out.
Who do you call for help when a 911 call brings the guys who hurt you in the first place?
I'm willing to bet that now that the Brave Cave has been exposed, there will be more people willing to come forward with their experiences there. And in the aftermath, I'll bet we're going to hear about more sites like this dotted around the country.
I hope I'm wrong. I really, really do. But if they exist, we need to know, and we need to put a stop to it.