TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) — An investigation by the Los Angeles Times has found that hundreds of Southern California criminal cases could be jeopardized after more than a dozen police officers exchanged racist and homophobic text messages.
The officers are current and former members and recruits of the Torrance Police Department in Los Angeles County. They traded hateful comments about people of color, particularly Black people, as well as Jews and members of the LGBTQ community. Other messages spoke about using violence against suspects and lying to investigators about a police shooting.
The newspaper’s story prompted the state attorney general to announce an independent probe of the Torrance Police Department.
“Our communities deserve to know they can get equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Police departments are on the front lines of that fight every day as they work to protect the people of our state. However, where there is evidence of potentially pervasive bias or discrimination, it can undermine the trust that is critical for public safety and our justice system.
"I applaud Chief Jay Hart for being willing to engage with my office to tackle these concerns head-on. Now is a time for swift action to identify the facts, take corrective measures where appropriate, and work toward community healing. The California Department of Justice will independently and thoroughly review the Torrance Police Department to determine the appropriate path forward. As always, we will go where the facts lead to protect the rights of the people of California.”
“As police chief of the Torrance Police Department, I am committed to accountability, and I will not tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct,” said TPD Chief of Police Jay Hart. “In partnership with Attorney General Bonta, I will ensure that needed changes are implemented to regain the public’s trust and confidence.”