New texts show extent of racism among Torrance police officers – San Bernardino Sun

Reigniting a scandal that began last December, new racist texts have emerged from Torrance police officers who joked on their telephones about urinating on a Black child, gassing Jews and beating up a woman.

The state Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation eight months ago into allegations that Torrance officers were engaging in racist conduct, including the painting of a swastika on a suspect’s car and sharing racist and homophobic text messages.

But the latest release of 390 texts found by authorities on the cell phones of former Torrance Officers Cody Weldin and Christopher Tomsic offered the clearest picture yet of the depth of the alleged misconduct.

The texts, sent between July 2018 and February 2020, showed officers referring to detainees as “savages,” “moon crickets” and “monkeys.”

One message refers to a newscast about a man urinating on a Black girl, while calling her the n-word. “Where’s the crime?” asks the officer.

In another text, an officer brags about beating up a female detainee: “Got her pretty good on the take down. She’s got a decent shiner on her face.”

Conduct ‘will not be tolerated’

The Torrance Police Department responded Thursday with a prepared statement doubling down on its past promise to weed out bad behavior in the ranks and better serve the community, working with the Attorney General’s Office.

“Misconduct where officers fall below this standard will not be tolerated. We understand that we are fortunate to have the opportunity to improve this police department and take this responsibility very seriously,” said the statement. “We will provide public safety. We will rebuild community trust. We will do better.”

Torrance Mayor George Chen called the texts “appalling and troubling.”

“The police department and the California Department of Justice have already initiated investigations and we must allow this process to continue to the end,” Chen said. “I am confident that under Chief (Jeremiah) Hart, the police department has and will continue to aggressively ensure that racism, bigotry, and hate have no place in our police department.”

The new texts were first reported Thursday by the Los Angeles Times and contained in a court filing by the District Attorney’s Office.

N-word used repeatedly

In the texts, officers repeatedly used a version of the “n-word,” complaining in one message that “you drop one N-bomb and everyone loses their mind.”

Another text seems to celebrate killing a Black father: “His son will grow up without a father now. Oh way, (sic) that’s standard by any African-American family to be absent a father. He’ll be fine.”

In another text, one officer tells of his shoot-to-kill attitude.

“We actually shoot vital organs to kill suspects, not wound them and let them keep living and allowing grandma to (expletive) all over us.”

BLM: ‘Troubling and vile’

Sheila Bates, a Black Lives Matter organizer in Los Angeles who has been pressuring Torrance to reform the police department for several years, said she was not surprised by the new texts.

“We always knew who and what Torrance Police Department was and this just literally provides proof in text form of the racist and violent nature of the Torrance Police Department,” Bates said. “Unfortunately, I’m not really shocked by these messages. It was troubling and vile and disturbing to read it in actual print in front of me.”

Bates and her fellow BLM activists have been asking for an independent civilian oversight committee since the fatal police shooting of Christopher De’Andre Mitchell in December 2018.

During a City Council meeting in May 2019, Bates said she was tackled by police when BLM activists were asked to leave the room and a protest broke out. She later sued the city.

Taking ‘the ostrich approach’

Another BLM organizer, Baba Akili, also has attended Torrance City Council meetings for several years and said he is frustrated by the little change he has seen within the city and police department.

“They’ve taken the ostrich approach,” Akili said. “If an article comes out or something that’s, you know, clearly unavoidable, they’ll respond. But other than that they stick their heads in the sand and go on business as usual as if nothing ever happened.”

In June, the Torrance police department and city officials signed an agreement with Attorney General Rob Bonta to open its books to an independent state review. The agreement also calls for the police department to take guidance and recommendations from the state in reforming its operation and reconciling with the community.

Chief open to oversight committee

The reforms could include the civilian oversight committee long sought by Black Lives Matter. Or not.

Chief Hart said he is open to an civilian oversight committee, but added that this is just one model of oversight and that the authority to establish a committee rests with the City Council.

“I am definitely in the spirit of collaborative reform — with the Department of Justice, with the City Council and with the community — and open to novel ideas to make the city of Torrance and the police department a safer place where the trust has been rebuilt between the community and the police department,” Hart said.

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