TORRANCE — The City of Torrance released the following statement on Aug. 25 regarding California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s investigation of allegations of racial bias in the Torrance Police Department:
“The City of Torrance and the Torrance Police Department is committed to police reform, transparency and building trust with the public. In an effort to create the change necessary to improve the Torrance Police Department and to achieve these goals, we reached out to the California Department of Justice to build a collaborative partnership with them to leverage their ability to assist the department.
“The commitment to change and reform on the part of the City of Torrance and the Torrance Police Department is evident every day. Our officers are striving to rebuild trust with every interaction. Evidence of this commitment can be found in the memorandum of understanding agreed to between the City of Torrance and the Department of Justice (dated June 15) …
“This agreement clearly memorializes our absolute commitment to change while maintaining our focus on public safety. Torrance is a place where we value safety, trust and transparency. We are committed to building a police department that will reflect the values of the community that we are proud to serve.
“This transformation will take time, but rest assured that the women and men of this department are working hard to build community trust while engaging in policing guided by respect for all and constitutional principles. Misconduct where officers fall below this standard will not be tolerated.
“We understand that we are fortunate to have the opportunity to improve this police department and take this responsibility very seriously. We will provide public safety. We will rebuild community trust. We will do better … “
In December 2021, Bonta announced 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 came amid allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct, and followed a request for assistance by Torrance Chief of Police Jay Hart.
“Our communities deserve to know they can get equal justice under the law,” Bonta said at the time. “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.”
The review is being 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 are considering all relevant information from community members and organizations, local officials, TPD, individual officers, and others. The Office of the Attorney General has made no determinations at this time about specific complaints or allegations against TPD.
The allegations, first made public by a Los Angeles Times report, are that more than a dozen officers exchanged racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and transphobic for years, joked about using violence against suspects, and mocked the idea that internal affairs might catch them.
The full text of the June 15 agreement can be found here.