(Memphis) Beale Street is the busiest and most famous street in Memphis.
Now, its at the center of a multi-million dollar lawsuit over claims of abuse and civil rights violations by police from sweeps that were being done.
“Actually it’s something we discontinued last June so we don’t do it anymore. We hadn’t been doing it for quite some time and going into this season, this year, we won’t do it this season either,” said MPD Director Toney Armstrong.
Armstrong says the Beale Street sweeps stopped because they were no longer necessary and had nothing to do with abuse claims like the one filed by one of their own.
Patrolman Lakendus Cole. Cole and Leon Edmond, an ATF agent from St. Louis, claim Memphis police roughed them up, arrested them for no reason and violated their civil rights.
“I won’t speak to the legitimacy of the lawsuit but certainly with an agency this size we get more than our fair share of lawsuits,” said Armstrong.
During the sweeps, MPD officers forced all visitors not inside clubs off the street.
An On Your Side Investigation uncovered mounting claims of police brutality during these sweeps.
Visitors accused officers of choking, pushing them to the ground, slamming them into squad cars.
Two people said one officer punched them in the head and even put them in headlocks.
Internal Affairs determined most of the claims were unfounded. “
“Anytime you have a department this size and we touch as many people as we touch, you’re going to have those types of things,” said Armstrong.
Attorney Robert Spence says otherwise. He’s filed two lawsuits in two weeks against Beale Street officers.
“Just a blatant violation of their civil rights,” said Spence.
He added, “They weren’t disorderly. They weren’t anything.”
Spence also represents two former University of Memphis college students who claim seven MPD officers beat them on Beale Street.