ANTIOCH, Calif. — A San Francisco Bay Area City Councilman is conducting an audit of its troubled police department, the latest development in a year-long federal investigation by the Antioch Police Department that blew up this month with disclosures of racist and hostile text, according to News of officials.
Angry residents crowded City Hall on Tuesday night as the Antioch City Council unanimously approved audits of the department’s internal affairs division, its hiring and promotion practices and department culture. Officials have named 17 officers who sent text messages, including the Antioch Police Union president, although the Contra Costa County Public Defender said nearly half the department of 100 officers was involved in the text strings.
Defense Attorney Ellen McDonnell has asked District Attorney Diana Becton to dismiss all cases involving the Public Defender’s Office and the Antioch Police Department. Becton said she is reviewing cases for possible release or re-sentencing. It is unclear how many cases are involved.
“The public simply cannot have confidence in a prosecution involving the Antioch Police Department,” McDonnell said in an email on Wednesday. “No one should be charged with a crime based on the report of a police department so thoroughly riddled with corruption.”
The inflammatory text messages, which were heavily redacted, contain derogatory, racist, homophobic and sexually explicit language. The officers brag about fabricating evidence and beating up suspects. They label women as water buffalo, share photos of gorillas, freely use racial slurs and shed light on the 2020 police killing of George Floyd.
In September 2020, two officers agreed via text message to author a large body of traffic allegations by targeting a specific group in a specific area. Referring to black people with a racial slur, a male officer said authorities should make them “S—eat.” An officer replied, “Yes, it will be easy. And it’s going to be a good timing lol get on the numbers quick.”
The city of 115,000 people about 45 miles east of San Francisco was once mostly white but has diversified over the past 30 years.
Mayor Lamar Thorpe is among three black, progressive members of the five-member council who have said they are committed to holding police accountable and protecting tenants’ rights. In 2021, the city apologized for its treatment of early Chinese immigrants.
“What you’re seeing is a maturation process, it’s like watching a teenager develop pimples,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “It took institutions a long time to catch up where voters and the public were.”
The text messages were released as part of an investigation opened in March 2022 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Contra Costa prosecutors into a variety of crimes, including what prosecutors have described as crimes of “moral depravity” by Antioch officials and nearby Pittsburgh Police Departments.
The district attorney’s office released two batches of text messages to reporters after a judge on April 7 ordered the messages released to defense attorneys in a pending crime case involving some of the officers. The reports did not identify the races of the officers who sent the text messages, and none have yet been charged with a crime.
The messages announced so far were mostly sent in 2020 and 2021. Rick Hoffman, President of the Antioch Police Officers Association, is credited as the sender. The association did not respond to requests for comment.
In April 2020, an Antioch officer texted an officer from another police department: “Since we don’t have video, I sometimes just say people have given me full confession, if they haven’t, make it easier for you to submit.” .”
In June 2020, an officer offered a steak dinner to anyone who could make Thorpe “40” at a protest, referring to a “less lethal .40mm launcher,” a senior prosecutor’s inspector explained in a report . Such a device could fire rubber bullets or beanbag projectiles.
Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford issued a statement last week condemning “the racially hateful content and incomprehensible behavior media reports have attributed to members of the Antioch Police Department.”
His department also set up an email address and phone number for community members to provide feedback. Ford did not respond to emailed requests to speak to The Associated Press.
Police officers have been arrested before for sending bigoted messages to each other. In 2015, then-San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr led to the firing or discipline of 14 officers involved in trafficking racist text messages.
The authorities have not given a timetable for the end of their joint investigation.