California city audits its police department after receiving racist and hostile text messages

A San Francisco Bay Area city will audit its police department after text messages showed California officers bragging about making up evidence and beating up suspects.

The city council of San Francisco Bay Area is auditing its police department. This is the latest in a federal investigation that has been ongoing for a year into the Antioch Police Department. It was blown out of proportion this month when racist and hostile texts sent by Antioch Police Department officers were revealed.

Residents were angry as they crowded City Hall Tuesday night, when the Antioch City Council unanimously voted to approve audits of the department’s internal affairs unit and its hiring and promotion practices. They also approved audits on the department’s culture. Officials named 17 officers, including the president, of the Antioch Police Union, who sent texts, but Contra Costa County’s public defender stated that almost half of the department’s 100 officers were included in the text chain.

Ellen McDonnell, a defense attorney, has asked District Attorney Diana Becton for the dismissal of all cases that involve the Antioch Police and Public Defender’s Office. Becton has said that she is reviewing all cases to determine if they should be dismissed or resentenced. Uncertain is the number of cases at stake.


McDonnell wrote in an email on Wednesday that the public “cannot have confidence or trust in any criminal prosecutions involving Antioch Police Department.” “Nobody should be charged with any crime based on a report from a police force so rife with corruption.”

The heavily redacted incendiary texts include derogatory, homophobic, and racist language. Officers boast about fabricating evidence and beating suspects. They call women water buffalos, post gorilla photos, use racial insults and joke about the 2020 police killing of George Floyd.

Two officers in September 2020 agreed via text to issue a large amount of traffic tickets by targeting a certain group within a particular area. A male officer called Black people a racist term and told authorities to make them “eat —.” “Yes, that’ll be easy,” a female officer replied. It will be fun lol. Let’s get started quickly with the numbers.”

In the past, this city of 115,000 people located about 45 miles to the east of San Francisco had a predominantly white population. However, in the last thirty years it has become more diverse.

Kiora Hansen, left, and Della Currie protest at the Antioch Police Headquarters in California, April 18, 2023. The small San Francisco Bay Area town of Antioch voted for an audit of its struggling Antioch Police Department.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe, one of three Black progressive council members who are committed to protecting tenants’ rights and holding the police accountable, is a member of this five-person council. The city apologized for its treatment towards early Chinese immigrants in 2021.

In an interview on Wednesday, he explained that “what you are seeing is a process of maturation. It’s like watching teenage kids develop pimples.” “It has taken the institutions a long time before they caught up to where voters and the public were.”

The text messages were released as part of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office in March 2022 into a wide range of crimes, including what prosecutors referred to as crimes of “moral turpitude” committed by Antioch and Pittsburg Police Department officers.


After a judge ordered on April 7, that the text messages be shared with the defense attorneys involved in a pending criminal case, the district attorney’s offices released two batches to reporters. The reports did identify the races and genders of the officers that sent the texts, but none has been charged.

The majority of the messages revealed to date were sent in 2020 and 2021. Sgt. Rick Hoffman, President of the Antioch Police Officers Association is listed as sending communications. The association has not responded to any requests for comment.

In April 2020, an Antioch police officer texted another officer in a different department: “Since I don’t always have video, I just tell people they gave me a complete confession, even if they didn’t. It makes it easier to file.”

A senior inspector from the district attorney’s report explained that in June 2020 an officer offered steak dinners to anyone who was able to “40” Thorpe at a protest. This refers to a “.40mm lesser lethal launcher”, a report stated. This device could fire rubber bullets or beanbag rounds.

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Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford released a statement the week before last condemning “the racially offensive content and incomprehensible behaviors being attributed by media reports to members of the Antioch Police Department.”

The department has also set up a phone number and email address where members of the community can give feedback. Ford did not reply to requests for an interview with The Associated Press via email.

Before, police officers were caught sending each other racist messages. In 2015, the then-San Francisco Police chief Greg Suhr fired or disciplined 14 officers who had exchanged racist text messages.

The authorities have not given a timeline as to when the joint investigation could be completed.

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