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California AG launches probe into police department over allegations of racist texts

The announcement came after the Los Angeles Times reported that several Torrance Police Department officers had exchanged racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic messages.
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“Our communities deserve to know they can get equal justice under the law,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said after announcing the review.Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California’s attorney general has launched an independent review of a Los Angeles County police department after "deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct" were brought to light.

In a press release on Wednesday, Attorney General Rob Bonta's office said the review into the Torrance Police Department would be conducted by the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section with the assistance of the DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement. 

“Our communities deserve to know they can get equal justice under the law,” 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,” he said. “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.”

The announcement came hours after the Los Angeles Times published an investigation alleging that several officers with the Torrance Police Department had exchanged racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic texts and images.

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Bonta said that Torrance Police Chief Jay Hart had requested that the attorney general and the state’s DOJ investigate the issue.

“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,” Hart said in a statement. 

“In partnership with Attorney General Bonta, I will ensure that needed changes are implemented to regain the public’s trust and confidence,” he said. 

In a separate statement on Wednesday, Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey said: “My promise to all of our residents and visitors to the city is that I will personally do everything I can to ensure that all people feel welcome, safe and protected in our community."

The investigation comes in the wake of widespread calls from people across the country, including from activist groups like Black Lives matter and politicians, for police reform — and abolition — following the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

In April, after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in Floyd's murder, President Joe Biden said the incident had "ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism" that he said was a "stain (on) our nation's soul."

Noting that Floyd's death had "launched a summer of protest we hadn’t seen since the Civil Rights era in the ‘60s," Biden said the U.S. needed to acknowledge and confront "systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system more broadly."