California attorney general to investigate Torrance Police after racist text scandal

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California Etsy. General Rob Bonta said on Wednesday that his office would investigate the Torrance Police Department in the wake of a scandal that revealed more than a dozen police officers had exchanged racist text messages over the years, of violence against suspects. and mocked the idea that there could be internal cases. catch them.

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In an interview with The Times, Bonta said that while texts would be at the “heart” of any investigation, the investigation would be broader and could include policy reviews and, if necessary, criminal charges against individual executives.

“The reports are very disturbing and we are determined to go wherever we go and make sure we address the situation and take the Torrance Police Department to corrective action,” he said.

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The announcement came hours after The Times published an investigation that revealed that more than a dozen Torrance police officers had exchanged racist and anti-Semitic texts and images, which were recently captured by two former officers. Was exposed as part of a criminal investigation. However, Bonta’s review was under way before the Times story was published.

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Through interviews with sources with direct knowledge of the case and a review of the district attorney’s office records, The Times identified 13 current and former Torrance police officers and one Long Beach cop as part of the investigation into the scandal. are subject. Records reviewed by The Times showed at least nine officers sharing text or images detailing violence against black people and members of the LGBTQ community, mocking the beatings of suspects and views of an internal affairs investigation into racial profiling. Made fun of

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According to the sergeant, fifteen officers are currently on administrative leave. Torrance Police spokesman Mark Ponegalek. The officers identified by The Times were involved in at least seven serious or fatal uses of force against black or Latino men since 2013.

The officials identified in The Times article on Wednesday did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The existence of the scandal came to light earlier this year as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office was weighing criminal charges against two former officers, Cody Veldin and Christopher Tomasik, who allegedly spray-painted a swastika inside a vehicle. Painting was ordered. January 2020.

In August Veldin and Tomasik were charged with conspiracy and vandalism. Both have pleaded not guilty. A third officer under investigation in the scandal, David Chandler, was charged with assault in 2018 for the shooting of an armed man who was battling a mental health crisis.

A joint investigation by Torrance Police and the district attorney’s office discovered the text messages. Torrance Police has already hired an outside law firm to review the scandal, and Chief Jeremiah Hart said he sought assistance from the Attorney General’s office after the hate messages were exposed.

“I am committed to accountability, and I will not tolerate bigotry, racism, hatred or misconduct of any kind,” Hart said in a statement. “In partnership with Attorney General Bonta, I will ensure that the necessary changes are implemented to regain the public’s trust and confidence.”

Bonta described the investigation as a “targeted correction effort” in contrast to the one launched earlier this year at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. While Bonta said the Torrance review would be collaborative in nature, because of Hart’s request for help, the Sheriff’s Department review is a “pattern or practice” investigation where the office can use its legal authority to seek potentially court-mandated reforms. Used to be.

Still, Bonta said, he is prepared to harden his approach if his investigators are met with pushback.

“There will be people protesting. And it is not an ally with those people,” he said. “It won’t stop us from getting all the information… It’s not a big monolith. It’s not like we’re cooperating with everyone or we’re all against.”

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