The California Attorney General (AG) announced on May 10 that it will launch a probe into the Antioch Police Department following allegations of leaked racist and derogatory text messages and other civil rights violations.
According to AG Rob Bonta’s office, the investigation will focus on whether there have been widespread civil rights abuses committed at the department.
In a statement, the AG’s office expressed deep concern over the allegations and stated that the investigation will assess whether the department has engaged in unconstitutional policing practices.
“If, through this investigation, the Attorney General’s Office determines that unlawful activity or practices took place, the office will also determine what potential actions are needed to ensure comprehensive corrective action takes place at APD,” the AG’s office said.
The case stems from a report compiled by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office following a joint investigation by the FBI and local authorities, which revealed that numerous officers sent or received racist and derogatory messages between 2020 and 2021.
The report detailed instances of homophobic slurs, racist imagery and even discussions about using “less lethal” force on individuals, including the city’s Black mayor.
In addition, the report accused a handful of officers for offenses such as drug use and cheating on tests.
Attorney General Bonta expressed concern about the preliminary findings.
“The early indications that we’ve seen here in Antioch raise significant red flags,” Bonta said.
The Antioch Police Department’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigation.
In response to the allegations, Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford condemned the “racially abhorrent content and incomprehensible behavior” attributed to members of the Antioch Police Department.
Currently, eight officers have been placed on administrative leave in connection with the allegations. Attorney Michael Rains, who represents some of the officers named in the report, expressed no objection to the investigation as long as it is conducted thoroughly and objectively. He also stated that the offensive text messages were generated by only a few officers, contrary to suggestions in media accounts that such messaging was widespread within the department.
Multiple individuals have filed a federal lawsuit against the Antioch Police Department, arguing that their civil rights were violated by six officers identified in the report during the period when the offensive messages were exchanged.
Due to the complaints, several officers were put on leave last year, including a K-9 officer who was involved in a several use-of-force incidents.