Dozens of criminal cases thrown out over police officers’ racist and homophobic texts

At least 85 criminal cases in Torrance, California, have been dismissed over racist and homophobic text messages shared by police officers.

The texts, sent by current and former officers at the Torrance Police Department in Los Angeles, contained slurs and hateful messages about Black people, Jewish people and members of the LGBT+ community, according to the Los Angeles Times

The exact number of officers involved is unclear, however a Torrance police spokesperson said 15 officers had been placed on administrative leave.

During its investigation, the Los Angeles Times found jokes about police brutality, as well as racial slurs and uses of the n-word in officers’ texts.

The publication found that several officers involved are also defendants in lawsuits alleging excessive force, false arrest and wrongful death.

The texts have led to over 85 criminal cases being thrown out, as the officer’s alleged biases against the communities targeted in their texts may have influenced their treatment of certain cases and suspects.

It is unclear how many cases could be affected, as it was found that the officers were listed as potential witnesses in nearly 1,400 cases in the last decade, according to district attorney’s records the Los Angeles Times obtained.

California attorney general Rob Bonta’s office said in a statement: “The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct.”

Police chief Jay Hart added in the statement: “I am committed to accountability, and I will not tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct.”

The text messages were first discovered during an investigation into two former Torrance officers, who were charged with allegedly spray-painting a swastika into a car in January 2020.

The two ex-cops, Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic, were charged with conspiracy and vandalism after allegedly spray-painting a swastika and a “happy face” into the car after responding to a call.

While looking into the vandalism allegations, the office of LA County district attorney George Gаscón began requesting texts sent by the officers, which led to the discovery of racist and homophobic messages from other police officers.

In a statement on its website, the City of Torrance said: “The City of Torrance wants all members of the community alike to be reassured that the city does not condone any member under our employ that expresses or condones behaviour inconsistent with our mission to serve everyone in the community with respect and dignity. 

“We will not tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct. 

“An internal investigation is being conducted and the involved officers have been placed on administrative leave.”

In the UK, a police officer was sacked in September after making a number of homophobic and racist Facebook posts.

Lee Scott, of the Northumbria Police force, was fired after facing six allegations of gross misconduct over Facebook comments concerning George Floyd, mocking a chief constable who took the knee at a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of Floyd’s death in May 2020.

“There is no place for hate in our region and certainly not in our police force,” Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner Kim McGuinness said at the time.

“This officer has let his force, his colleagues and importantly, the communities he was meant to be serving down.”