Posted on December 18, 2021

Authorities in California Dismissed 90 Cases So Far Due to the Involvement of Officers Under Investigation for Racist Texts

Alexandra Meeks et al., CNN, December 9, 2021

Following allegations of excessive force, racist text messages and other misconduct, the Torrance Police Department in California faces an independent review from the state’s department of justice, Attorney General Rob Bonta said Wednesday.

More than 1,800 cases spanning over a decade in Los Angeles County are now under review, due to more than a dozen Torrance Police Department officers who worked the cases having been placed under investigation for racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic messages, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Greg Risling, the assistant chief of media relations for District Attorney George Gascon, wrote to CNN that to date, approximately 40 felony cases have been dismissed. Risling wrote that the cases under review include juvenile cases. He said the office is prioritizing pending cases as well as post-conviction cases where people remain in custody.

Risling added that prosecutors are reviewing criminal allegations of unreasonable force by these officers, which have been presented to their office.

At the city level, the Torrance City Attorney has also dismissed 50 misdemeanor cases, according to Sgt Mark Ponegalek, public information officer for the Torrance Police Department.

Ponegalek told CNN 15 Torrance police officers are currently on paid administrative leave. Some were put on leave as early as August, with more officers put on leave later as more information became available through the ongoing investigation.

The independent review comes after an investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed a history of discriminatory text messages reportedly sent between what it says were at least a dozen current and former Torrance police officers and recruits, including a photo of Black men being lynched with the caption “hanging with the homies.”

Another text message conversation included a photo asking what someone should do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man, the newspaper reported. According to the officer’s caption, the answer was to break “a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him.”