California Police Officers' Bigoted Text Messages Have Just Undone Dozens Of Felony Cases
from the it's-time-to-keep-the-streets-free-of...-racist-cops dept
Racism and policing go hand-in-hand. It’s been this way ever since police forces were created for the purpose of tracking down escaped slaves and returning them to their owners. Flash forward 150 years and very little has changed other than the ending of slavery.
Unsurprisingly, the advent of social media platforms and the increase in smartphone use has exposed the racism that still flows through far too many law enforcement agencies. Multiple investigations have been triggered by the exposure of bigoted communications between officers. It hasn’t exactly resulted in a nationwide reckoning for racist officers, but it has at least seen a few bad apples tossed from barrels across the country.
If cops aren’t worried about what happens to them — as is evidenced by their carefree deployment of casual racism — it’s doubtful they’re too worried about what happens to the general public. They claim to be the thin blue line standing between us and criminal chaos, but their racist words are erasing that line, allowing criminal suspects to return to the streets.
The Torrance Police Department in California is the epicenter of the latest garbage racist cop shitstorm. And rightfully so, given what’s been uncovered there. Convictions and pending criminal cases are now in jeopardy because of officers texting each other things like this:
The caption read “hanging with the homies.”
The picture above it showed several Black men who had been lynched.
Another photo asked what someone should do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man. The answer, according to the caption, was to break “a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him.”
Someone else sent a picture of a candy cane, a Christmas tree ornament, a star for the top of the tree and an “enslaved person.”
“Which one doesn’t belong?” the caption asked.
“You don’t hang the star,” someone wrote back.
Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times — which includes open investigations into some of these officers — shows the Torrance PD has a racism problem, one it is now forced to confront. It’s one thing when it’s officers being lousy human beings. That can be swept under the rug. It’s quite another when dozens of criminal cases might be tossed because these officers have shown they can’t be trusted on the streets, much less in court.
While no officers currently face criminal charges in direct relation to the text messages, the racist exchanges have led to the dismissal of at least 85 criminal cases involving the officers implicated in the scandal. County prosecutors had tossed 35 felony cases as of mid-November, and the Torrance city attorney’s office has dismissed an additional 50, officials said.
The bleeding is unlikely to stop there. Records from the District Attorney’s office shows the officers implicated in this new scandal are (or were) listed as potential witnesses in nearly 1,400 cases spanning the last decade. The LA County public defender’s office has been swamped since this information came to light, receiving nearly 300 letters disclosing possible misconduct by officers during one single week in November.
The officers didn’t just target black people with these texts. They also joked about “gassing” Jews, assaulting (sexually or otherwise) LGBTQ persons, assaulting suspects, and lying during investigations.
It’s possible this hatred and misconduct would never have been exposed. But two officers apparently felt untouchable enough that they felt comfortable spray-painting a swastika on a vehicle they towed following a report of mail theft. An investigation into the actions of Officers Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic uncovered racist messages originating from Tomsic.
District attorney’s records reviewed by The Times showed Tomsic sent a slew of racist images and messages, including a picture of former President Reagan feeding a monkey with a caption stating Reagan “used to babysit [former President] Obama.”
Another picture he sent referred to an “African American baby” as a “Pet Niguana,” according to the records, and he also sent a message mocking the fact that he was the subject of a racial profiling complaint.
“So we totally racially profiled his ass, haha … Shopping at 7/11 while Black, he didn’t know the rules lol,” Tomsic wrote, according to the records.
That led to the exposure of more bigoted messages from cops. There are a total of 18 officers implicated. The names of thirteen of those officers are known and have been published by the LA Times. Several of those officers have been investigated for deploying excessive force or killing citizens. In almost every case, they’ve been cleared of wrongdoing.
Fortunately, the Torrance PD seems to be taking this seriously. It has given the DA’s office 200 gigabytes of data covering officers’ text messages. And the DA’s office has been ensuring this information is passed on to the public defender’s office, so both parties can determine what cases might be affected by these cops and their racist attitudes.
But cops don’t just start sending racist texts to each other without feeling comfortable doing it. At some level, the Torrance PD made it clear this sort of behavior was, at minimum, ignored, if not actively tolerated. Now, these self-proclaimed protectors of the innocent have shown they only care about certain people, and are apparently willing to set criminals free rather than reign in their bigoted impulses.