Civil Rights Attorneys Ask U.S. DOJ to Open Federal Investigation of Antioch Police for Racist, Homophobic, Antisemitic Activities

Famed Civil Rights Attorney John Burris

By The Vanguard

ANTIOCH, CA – Civil rights attorneys John Burris and Ben Nisenbaum have asked the U.S. Dept. of Justice to open a federal probe in the actions of the embattled Antioch (CA) Police Dept., claiming the department is racist, homophobic and antisemitic, according to a statement issued Monday.

The letter, addressed to both the DOJ and U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, requested the agency “open a pattern and practice Civil Rights investigation into the policing practices of the Antioch Police Department.”

They charged, “Our belief is that the department, through its officers and command staff, is engaged in systemic practices of racial, homophobic, and antisemitic policing.”

According to Burris, “Many Antioch police officers sent text message to each other calling Black people ‘water Buffalos,’ ‘niggers’ and ‘monkeys’ and referring to some as ‘faggots’ and ‘pussies’ and ‘gorillas,’ including Antioch Chief of Police, Steven Ford.”

Burris noted, in the letter, that eight officers are on leave for racist and homophobic texts, and that people of color “were wrongfully detained, arrested, physically beaten, illegally search, subject to intimidation, kidnapping, falsifying reports, physical and canine assaults and verbally abused.”

He said his office has filed two federal civil rights lawsuits, and represents 12 plaintiffs, and interviewed about 150 potential plaintiffs who “tell similar stories of mistreatment including being stopped, searched, money taken and sometimes ‘weed’ was also taken…and then they were released with no records of the contact.”

“I understand the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office and the FBI are investigating the officers…I am solely interested in investigating the discriminatory pattern and practice of race-based policing,” added Burris in his letter.

“We made this request against the backdrop that we have filed two federal civil rights lawsuits representing 13 plaintiffs, each alleging various violations. We have interviewed at least 140 others who claim that they also have been subject to multiple constitutional violations by Antioch police officers for years,” Burris and Nisenbaum said in their statement Monday.

“The media widely reported that over an extended period of time, many officers have sent text messages amongst themselves referring to the community, including the police chief, in the vilest racial and derogatory ways, including descriptive statements about their use of unconstitutional conduct such as excessive force, illegal detentions, and arrests, and forced confessions to name a few,” they added.

The attorneys noted “many Antioch officers are under criminal investigations by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office and the FBI (and) the majority of Antioch police officers appear out of control and with no institutional accountability to monitor their conduct. 

Burris said he believes “the officers represent a clear and present danger to the citizens of this community and must be stopped now.”

Burris and Nisenbaum insisted, “DOJ needs to institute a consent decree against the department, forcing the department to adhere to new policies and procedures for accountability, and there should be a federal monitor to oversee the reforms.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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