In my home jurisdiction of Contra Costa County, cops from the cities of Antioch and Pittsburg California were rounded up by the FBI! The Feds have been working on the case for just a year, but this is a disaster that anyone could have seen coming for decades. I can speak to this because I've been practicing law in Contra Costa since 2001, and tried many cases against those departments in Contra Costa courts.
On August 16th, 2023:
FBI raids Northern California police departments amid racism, corruption investigation
The probe began in early 2022 after the FBI and Contra Costa District Attorney got a tip that some East Contra Costa County police officers had cheated on college tests to get education incentive pay bumps. The local and federal investigation soon turned up evidence of racist and homophobic behavior among police officers, and led to scrutiny of the handling of many violent crime and drug trafficking cases.
The Federal charges against the cops range from wire fraud, conspiracy, and civil rights violations, to interference with a homicide investigation. Additionally, there are State charges of criminal conspiracy, accepting bribes, and voiding the citations of friends.
This type of "bad cop" activity been going on for years in Contra Costa. The naked corruption that I witnessed by law enforcement in the county is one of the reasons why I was inspired to write my book, “California: State of Collusion.”
We have seen this systemic corruption before with “The Riders” in the Oakland Police Department, and the organized gang-like behavior of LA's Rampart Division. It is not limited to Big Cities, as we see in these sleepy Bay Area suburbs.
In the book, I touch on an angle that NO ONE talks about: How is it that whole law enforcement departments fall into corruption? Does this just happen by chance?
A Few Bad Apples?
In their investigation into these police officers from Antioch and Pittsburg, the FBI and county prosecutors found evidence that the problem was systemic in their departments. The “paper trail” of their text messages is damning. Among the allegations are chains of text messages sent between as many as 45 Antioch officers, using racial slurs and describing violence against suspects, and going as far as threatening Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who is African American. The N-word was used at least a dozen times, as were terms describing African Americans as "gorillas."
There are only 100 officers on the Antioch police force. That means almost 50% of the cops in the department were aware of the misconduct and subsequent celebrations by the bad cops, and not one did anything about the illegal behavior. A handful of cops did terrible things under the color of authority, and half the force were aware. Indeed a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch. But how?
Fear and intimidation have silenced many “good cops” from shining light on endemically corrupt law enforcement organizations.
The few bad cops are clever psychopaths that use seniority, rank, and intimidation to have their will on the job. This sets up an environment where conditions similar to the Milgram psychological experiments and Zombardo's Stanford Prison Experiment can come to life in the real world. In these studies, everyday people chose to do things they knew were terrible to fit in and go along with the status quo.
In almost every law enforcement agency, there are police psychopaths that exert power over compliant peers. With the unspoken police code known as the ‘Blue Wall of Silence' behind them, they can subjugate a community to their will.
It Doesn't Stop with Cops
District Attorneys, prosecutors, and judges do not do enough to prevent bad cops from careers of misconduct. In fact, they too often encourage it.
It's the job of defense attorneys to weed out corrupt cops and bring their bad actions to court in the form of motions. I do that, other defense attorneys do that, so how come the bad cops aren't weeded out and stopped?
The answer is because 99% of the time when we file motions to call out unlawful behavior by law enforcement, the prosecutor shows up and, instead of “pursuing justice,” as is their ethical duty, they show up and FIGHT TO WIN for their “team” the cops. Prosecutors and cops team up to get convictions, not fair trials based on evidence. And 99% of the time, if a prosecutor shows up to court to oppose a motion, a judge will do whatever it takes, twist the law, torture logic, to give the prosecutor a “win.” When prosecutors and judges protect, and even reward, bad cops, it brings our whole justice system down.
With respect to the many good people who are prosecutors and the many good people who are judges, we need you. Keep doing the right thing. However, when this level of corruption occurs, we have to look at the district attorney's office as well as the judges of Contra Costa County. We need to stop having sham hearings that are more like “Us versus Them” and focus on Justice. Otherwise, we'll keep having these types of scandals.