Antioch Police Alleged Racist Texts Case May Impact Thousands of Criminal Cases

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Thousands of past and current criminal cases could be impacted or overturned as a result of alleged racist text messages sent by Antioch police, according to the Contra Costa County public defender.

The text messages were uncovered as part of an FBI investigation into other possible crimes by police.

"It's deeply concerning and troubling," Public Defender Ellen McDonnell said. "It goes to an entrenched culture of racism and homophobia in the Antioch Police Department."

McDonnell said she is deeply concerned after learning 17 Antioch police officers are accused of sending racist and homophobic text messages and memes.

A superior court judge on Friday released the names of the officers - among them was the president of the Antioch police union.

"I understand the text messages are going to be very disturbing, very sensitive, and very racially loaded as well as containing homophobic slurs," McDonnell said.

The public defender has requested a list of all cases past and present that may have been investigated by the officers.

"This could certainly impact thousands and thousands of cases from the Antioch Police Department again, going back over the years, during which these individuals have been on the police force," McDonnell said.

Michael Rains, an attorney representing the officers, has not seen the text messages and is asking the public to stay neutral until the content and context are revealed. He also points out sometimes officers say or repeat things they do not mean during stressful situations.

"The only thing I ask everybody to do is not to jump to conclusions that anything is true and that all of it is true or that none of it is true - how do we know?" Rains said. "It should be a thorough, fair investigation that everybody has faith and trust in if the officers committed misconduct. I think you got a police chief in Antioch that is going to make that finding and is going to take what type of discipline the law calls for anywhere up to and including terminations."

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe responded Saturday after a judge released the names of 17 police officers accused of using racist language.

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe over the weekend called for an independent audit of the internal affairs process.

"The culture of the Antioch Police Department is a problem," Thorpe said. "The culture of the department requires further exploration, including how the hell all this alleged misconduct could go on for so long without anyone on command staff noticing."

The public defender said while they did not participate, more than 17 officers were on the group text message threads. McDonnell said they too should face consequences for staying silent.

"If another officer were to read any of these texts, they should have absolutely have notified a superior about the appalling content and what they observed," McDonnell said.

Defense attorneys are reportedly still waiting to receive copies of those text messages. The public defender believes the public has a right to see them.

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