(KRON) — A civil rights investigation into the Antioch Police Department will be initiated in relation to racist text messages sent between officers, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced. The investigation is intended to determine if the department “engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing amid deeply concerning allegations relating to bigoted text messages and other potentially discriminatory misconduct,” read a press release from Bonta’s office Wednesday.
At the center of the investigation are a series of racist text messages sent between Antioch PD officers that came to light last month. In the texts, which were made available to the media through the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, officers referred to Black people as “zoo” and “circus” animals.
Antioch Chief of Police Steve Ford described the texts as “racially abhorrent.”
“It is our job to protect and serve all of our communities,” said AG Bonta in a statement. “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.”
If it is determined that unlawful activity or practices took place, the office will determine what potential actions are needed “to ensure comprehensive corrective action takes place,” at the department, the AG’s office stated.
The Antioch Police Department is also the subject of criminal investigations from the FBI and the Contra Costa County DA, in relation to the text messages. Currently, 38 Antioch PD officers are on leave as a result of the investigation.
In a separate statement, Chief Ford pledged full cooperation with DOJ officials in the investigation, “just as we have done with the joint FBI-Contra Costa DA investigation already taking place.”