Racist Antioch Police

“This… is the most pervasive racial hatred case I’ve ever been involved in…This conduct itself was so horrible that it was more than just locker room talk, it was a state of mind.” That’s how civil rights attorney John Burris referred to the city of Antioch’s police department after he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department for years of racist abuse and texts between officers targeting Black people.

What was this state of mind? The text messages, released by the FBI in the course of an ongoing investigation, include racial slurs against Black people, frequently using the words ‘monkey’ and ‘gorilla’. Officers bragged about beating up suspects and targeting Black people for traffic stops. One officer even admitted to falsifying confessions in order for cases to “get filed easier.” Seventeen officers out of the 100 strong police force sent these texts, and over half of the police department was on the text thread where these messages were sent. None of the other officers raised any concern about these racist messages.

The rampant racism of the Antioch police department won’t come as much of a surprise for many residents of Antioch. After the lawsuit against the police department was announced, a number of residents spoke about harassment by Antioch police. Allen Carpenter was arrested in November 2020 and held for nearly a year in jail before being released without charge. Carpenter had been targeted for police stops multiple times. Even today, Carpenter is still having difficulty finding a job. At the press conference, Carpenter said “The system is set for us to fail.”

Carpenter is right: the whole system is set up to repress Black people, other people of color, and the poor. Whole police departments can get away with years of an entrenched racist culture and systematic harassment of Black people. It’s a whole system designed to oppress and harass: if we want to end that oppression, then the whole system will have to go.