In the latest development in the scandal facing the Antioch Police Department, Contra Costa County Judge Clare Maier released the names of 17 city police officers that allegedly used racial slurs and racist jokes and memes in text messages on Friday.
Judge Maier described many messages as targeting “members of the Black and Hispanic community,” and said that the content of the messages was “deeply disturbing” and so offensive it could "incite further hate or racial animus."
These texts surfaced as evidence in an ongoing federal investigation into alleged fraud, bribery, drug distribution, and civil rights violations regarding the use of force throughout the Antioch and Pittsburg police departments, according to the East Bay Times. The FBI had reportedly served search warrants on several officers’ homes and seized phones and other personal items directly from police headquarters.
The mayor of Antioch, Lamar Thorpe, released a video addressing the scandal on Saturday statement on Youtube. He called for a complete independent audit of hiring and promotions practices by the city government to address the biases in the department, and said, “This will undoubtedly leave an embarrassing stain on our community. The culture at the Antioch Police Department is a problem and has long been a huge financial and legal liability to the city."
The names of officers in the racist messages scandal include the president of Antioch's police union, Rick Hoffman, and five officers already being investigated by the FBI, the East Bay Times reported. Eleven more Antioch officers were also named, at least eight of whom have been put on administrative leave by Mayor Thorpe in March, according to KPIX.
Attorney Ben Nisenbaum, who is representing the family of Angelo Quinto in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Antioch Police Department, said that the release of the officers' names is necessary for accountability, ABC7 reported.
The texts reportedly call into question arrests by the officers, especially of Black and Latino suspects, as legal defenses of those suspects could argue they were targeted due to their race. Some of the messages sent by officers specifically reference alleged members of the Oakland-based ENT gang, a few of whom were arrested by Antioch police officers — police misconduct that could jeopardize the federal charges against them, according to Contra Costa News. Already, as the East Bay Times reported, due to the FBI probe, dozens of federal and state cases have been dismissed.
Image of Antioch Police Department via Google Street View.