The Antioch, Cal., Police Department (APD) and its treatment of Black people for the past decade sits in the middle of a scandal after the release of violent, racist, homophobic, and sexist text messages by the city's police officers. The disturbing texts came to light during an investigation by the FBI and the District Attorney's office into alleged misconduct by police in Antioch and the neighboring city of Pittsburg. Some of the issues being investigated include the violent and excessive use of police dogs and eliciting false confessions, according to NPR. The District Attorney's office released two reports detailing the contents of multiple text message exchanges written by 17 officers between 2019 and 2022. They include two texts from Rick Hoffman, the president of Antioch's police union. Many more officers were included on the text chains, according to a letter from Ellen McDonnell, Chief Public Defender of Contra Costa County, District Attorney Diana Becton. According to McDonnell, so far 45 officers, almost half of the entire department, received the texts and did nothing. At least 16 of those "are in leadership roles at APD as detectives, sergeants, and lieutenants," McDonnell wrote.
The city's leadership has historically not reflected its diversifying population. That changed in 2020, with a Black majority on the five-person city council, including Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who was mentioned in texts. "I'll buy someone a prime rib dinner at House of prime rib to 40 that mfr during the protest today," one officer texted, referring to "the potential use of a .40mm less lethal launcher being utilized" on the mayor, the District Attorney said. A .40mm weapon fires hard foam projectiles. That text was sent in June 2020, during the heart of the national uprising over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Another text referred to Floyd as "the gorilla who died." The text messages continuously refer to Black people as "gorillas" and "monkeys," and officers repeatedly texted photos of gorillas to each other. A young activist, Shagoofa Khan, prominent in organizing protests including a hunger strike in front of the police station, was also mentioned in texts. She "looks like an Arabian nights cum dumpster," a sergeant wrote. The same sergeant, Josh Evans, texted in reference to the arrest of a Black suspect, "I'll bury that N*&*er in my fields." The texts also seem to suggest possible civil rights violations similar to racial profiling. "They would stop people just because they were Black, they would harass them, they would search them, and ultimately arrest them if they thought they could get away with it," civil rights lawyer John Burris alleged.