When the FBI and Contra Costa district attorney’s office were investigating Antioch Police Department (APD) officers who were suspected of committing crimes, they got more than they bargained for when they uncovered shocking “text message exchanges written by 17 officers from various time periods between 2019 and 2022.”
According to NBC News, “[t]he messages… detail officers’ allegedly using racial epithets and homophobic slurs, sharing racist images and casually discussing the use of ‘less lethal’ weapons on people, including the city’s mayor, who is Black.”
One such alarming message from Officer Morteza Amiri reads, “I sometimes just say people gave me a full confession when they didn’t,” after detailing that he can do this because his agency doesn’t record the interviews, adding that this just allows things to “[g]et filed easier,” according to the report.
An attorney for an individual who was convicted by an implicated officer said this has the potential to undermine the officers’ credibility. The deputy public defender for Contra Costa County Evan Kulk said, “Right now there are people sitting in jail based on the word of these officers who’ve been involved in using this horribly offensive language,” continuing “That is an intolerable situation.”
This is especially concerning when considering the fact that the majority of the city’s residents located just 45 minutes to the northeast of Oakland, are minorities, and these now leaked messages are expected to have wide-ranging repercussions for the criminal cases that are linked to each of the officers involved in this scandal.
This week at a city hall meeting, approximately 70 people spoke out about this egregious behavior, and “the Antioch city council voted unanimously to conduct audits of the department’s internal affairs unit as well as its hiring and promotional practices and department culture.”
Kathryn Wade has been outspoken on this issue of the APD mistreating Blacks for the past decade after her son was a victim of police violence in 2014. At the meeting Wade told to those in attendance, “You’re going to have to listen.” “You’re going to have to absorb a lot of people’s pain,” said Wade.
This case re-opened painful wounds for Wade, whose son died by suicide, which Wade alleges was caused by the actions of APD, because her son’s case was even referenced in the text messages, where “[o]fficers joked about Baldwin’s claims that they beat him on his backside, and about the department using deadly force. ‘But we kill more Mexicans than anything else. So Blacks can feel safe,’ one officer texted. ‘Sorry. Reverse that,’ he followed up a minute later,” and this was an example listed as on the tamer side of things.
At a press conference last week, acclaimed civil rights attorney John Burris announced that a federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of victims, who are still being compiled, against the police department, the city, and the individual officers, citing that racial profiling has been a “modus operandi with respect to these officers.”
Burris is also calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate along with two members of Congress.