California Attorney. General Rob Bonta said on Wednesday that he would open a civil rights investigation into the Antioch Police Department after dozens of its officers were caught up in a racist text message scandal that led to a federal criminal investigation.
The “pattern or practice” investigation will focus on blinded communications collected in a pair of reports by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office this year and East Bay Times first report.
At least 44 officers, more than half the agency, were named in the reports, which detailed text messages filled with anti-Black slurs and homophobic language, homo time shows officers bragging about the use of force against members of their community, according to the East Bay Times.
“Our job is to protect and serve all of our communities,” Bonta said in a statement. “Police departments are on the front lines of that fight every day as they work to protect the people of our state. However, when allegations of bias or discrimination are likely to spread, it can undermine the trust that is so important to public safety and our justice system. .”
Similar investigations by the California Department of Justice have been conducted against the Los Angeles County sheriff and probation departments. Bonta also launched a review of the Torrance Police Department after the incident Los Angeles Times details horrific racist text messages shared over the years by more than a dozen members of that agency. The investigations are non-criminal in nature but are intended to lead to strong mandated reforms for struggling law enforcement agencies.
However, they can move slowly. Bonta announced its investigation into Torrance nearly 18 months ago for similar misconduct, and no public reports were generated. Bonta’s office did not provide updates on the matter.
Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford on Wednesday pledged “full cooperation” with the state’s investigation.
“We understand the importance of ensuring our policies, procedures, and practices align with 21st Century Police expectations,” Ford said in a statement.
Ford also released a list of commitments to establish policies to ensure “unbiased control,” train officers in cultural sensitivities, and improve documentation of use cases. violence.
A department spokesman declined to say how many officers were involved in the scandal or the resulting suspensions. According to the East Bay Times, eight current and former officers are under FBI-related criminal investigation, and dozens more have been placed on administrative leave.
According to texts reviewed by the East Bay Times, one officer bragged about using a slingshot on the target of a raid, and in another thread – when asked what he was up to. – said he was “violating civil rights”. County prosecutors are considering dismissing or reviewing hundreds of criminal cases in which officers testified.
A similar review following the Torrance scandal led to the dismissal of dozens of pending felony cases. At least one man was released after it was discovered he pleaded guilty before prosecutors could reveal that several arresting officers were involved in the texting scandal. .