Investigation reveals years of racist text messages between police officers

by Mike Creef, Staff Writer
Ap Photo Police

Racist and homophobic text messages between more than a dozen current and former police officers of the Torrance Police Department in California have been discovered thanks to a Los Angeles Times investigation.

In one image sent via text, a caption read “hanging with the homies”. The picture above it depicts several lynched Black men. Another photo asked what someone should do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man. The caption read: “break a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him.” 

In yet another text exchange, an officer sent a picture of a candy cane, a Christmas ornament, a star tree-topper and an “enslaved person.”

“Which one doesn’t belong?” the caption asked. “You don’t hang the star,” someone wrote back.

California Attorney General announces investigation into police department in wake of text messages

California Attorney General Rob Bonta reacted swiftly to The LA Times’ report. The state’s lead prosecutor announced an independent investigation of the Torrance Police Department.

“The review comes amid deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct,” Bonta said in a news release. Prosecutors said the racist text conversations went on for years.

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A dozen Torrance PD officers have been investigated for exchanging the formerly secret texts, according to The LA Times.

The officers traded hateful comments about people of color, as well as Jews and members of the LGBTQ community. Other messages spoke about using violence against suspects and lying to investigators about a police shooting.

According to The Times, the text messages have already resulted in the dismissal of 85 criminal cases. However, none of the officers are currently facing criminal charges in connection with the texts.

This is not the first time the department has faced scandal and scrutiny. Just last November, Lindley Hupp, a former Torrance Police officer, admitted to illegally selling firearms while on the force. In August of this year, the LA County District Attorney charged another Torrance PD officer with excessive force for a 2018 shooting.

County prosecutors tossed 35 felony cases as of mid-November and the Torrance city attorney’s office has dismissed an additional 50 cases. According to records, officers who sent the texts were potential witnesses in nearly 1,400 cases over the last decade.

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The exact number of officers involved in the scandal is unclear. Sgt. Mark Ponegalek, a Torrance police spokesman, could not confirm or deny the identities of the officers involved. The department did say 15 of its officers are on administrative leave in relation to the scandal.

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