Review comes amidst allegations of bigoted text messages and other potentially discriminatory misconduct
OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced initiating a civil rights investigation into the Antioch Police Department (APD). The investigation will seek to determine whether the law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing amid deeply concerning allegations relating to bigoted text messages and other potentially discriminatory misconduct. If, through this investigation, the Attorney General’s Office determines that unlawful activity or practices took place, the office will also determine what potential actions are needed to ensure comprehensive corrective action takes place at APD. (See related articles here and here)
“It is our job to protect and serve all of our communities,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Police departments are on the front lines of that fight every day as they work to safeguard the people of our state. However, where there are allegations of potentially pervasive bias or discrimination, it can undermine the trust that is critical for public safety and our justice system. It is our responsibility to ensure that we establish a culture of accountability, professionalism, and zero tolerance for hateful or racist behavior, on or off duty.”
Under the California Constitution and California Civil Code section 52.3, the Attorney General is authorized to conduct civil investigations into whether a law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law. As opposed to a criminal investigation into an individual incident or incidents, a pattern or practice investigation typically works to identify and, as appropriate, compel the correction of systemic violations of the constitutional rights of the community at large by a law enforcement agency. With regard to the Antioch Police Department, the Attorney General has made no determinations at this time about specific complaints, allegations, or the agency’s overall policies and practices. The Attorney General’s independent investigation of APD is separate from ongoing or potential administrative or criminal investigations at the local and federal levels.
As interaction and cooperation with the community is at the core of law enforcement’s work to provide public safety and create public trust, the Attorney General encourages anyone with information relevant to this investigation to contact the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov. Members of the public may also send information to the California Department of Justice in other languages. During the course of the investigation, attorneys and special agents at the California Department of Justice will work diligently to consider all relevant information, including from community members and organizations, local officials, oversight entities, Antioch Police Department, and individual officers.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to strengthening trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve as one key part of the broader effort to increase public safety for all Californians. In February, Attorney General Bonta launched an investigation into allegations of excessive force at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Last year, the Attorney General assumed responsibility for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation related to contracts awarded to a local nonprofit. He worked with authorities in San Francisco to help ensure the continuation of local oversight efforts related to officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and severe uses of force. Attorney General Bonta also opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. In 2021, the Attorney General launched an independent review of the Torrance Police Department and secured a stipulated judgment against the Bakersfield Police Department requiring an extensive range of actions to promote public safety. Attorney General Bonta also established the Racial Justice Bureau within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section to, among other things, help address issues of implicit and explicit bias in policing.