OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Dec. 8 announced launching an independent review of the Torrance Police Department (TPD) as part of an effort to identify and correct potential systemic failures in the department’s policies and practices.
The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct, and follows a request for assistance by the Torrance chief of police. More broadly, the review will aim to promote public safety and rebuild trust between TPD and the community it serves.
“Our communities deserve to know they can get equal justice under the law,” said Bonta. “Police departments are on the front lines of that fight every day as they work to protect the people of our state. However, where there is evidence of potentially pervasive bias or discrimination, it can undermine the trust that is critical for public safety and our justice system.
“I applaud Chief Jay Hart for being willing to engage with my office to tackle these concerns head-on. Now is a time for swift action to identify the facts, take corrective measures where appropriate, and work toward community healing. The California Department of Justice will independently and thoroughly review the Torrance Police Department to determine the appropriate path forward. As always, we will go where the facts lead to protect the rights of the people of California.”
“As police chief of the Torrance Police Department, I am committed to accountability, and I will not tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct,” said Hart. “In partnership with Attorney General Bonta, I will ensure that needed changes are implemented to regain the public’s trust and confidence.”
At this stage, the independent review will be conducted by the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Enforcement Section with the assistance of DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement. During the course of the review, DOJ attorneys and special agents will work diligently to consider all relevant information, including from community members and organizations, local officials, TPD, individual officers, and more.
However, it is important to note that the Office of the Attorney General has made no determinations at this time about specific complaints or allegations against TPD. The attorney general’s independent review of TPD is separate from ongoing administrative and criminal investigations at the local level. Given that interaction and cooperation with the community is at the core of law enforcement’s work in providing public safety and creating public trust, the attorney general encourages anyone with information relevant to this review to contact DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov.
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 May, Bonta launched the Racial Justice Bureau within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section to, among other things, help address issues of implicit and explicit bias in policing.
In July, the attorney general released a full guidance package for the DOJ’s implementation of Assembly 1506, which requires DOJ to investigate all incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in the state. He also launched the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement to directly engage with and respond to the needs of communities and organizations across California.
In August, the attorney general announced the creation of the Tribal Assistance Program to develop guidance for law enforcement on policing on tribal lands. Attorney General Bonta also secured a stipulated judgment involving the Bakersfield Police Department requiring an extensive range of actions to promote public safety and strengthen oversight and accountability systems in Bakersfield.