By CBSLA Staff

TORRANCE (CBSLA) — An independent review of the Torrance Police Department was launched Wednesday by state Attorney General Rob Bonta following allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct.

“We’re going to focus on the facts, the evidence, the data, we’re going to gather it, we’re going to go wherever it takes us and we’re going to take appropriate steps to achieve justice,” Bonta said.

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The review follows a request for assistance by the department’s new chief of police, Jay Hart, and aims to rebuild trust between Torrance police and the surrounding community. The review also comes after a Los Angeles Times report that dozens of criminal cases have either been thrown out or are in jeopardy due to racist text messages and photos exchanged by more than a dozen current and former Torrance police officers.

The text messages were uncovered during an investigation into two former Torrance officers who have been charged with felony vandalism after allegedly painting a swastika on the back of an impounded vehicle. Thirteen current and former Torrance officers, and one from Long Beach, are under investigation. A total of 15 Torrance police officers are on administrative leave, according to the newspaper.

“We have standards for our law enforcement that are high standards, appropriately so, to keep people safe and honor their civil rights and constitutional rights at the same time,” the AG said.

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Chief Hart, who started with the Torrance Police Department in 1988 as a patrol officer and was appointed chief in April, says he is committed to accountability and won’t “tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct.”

The state’s independent review will be conducted by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section, with the assistance of the Division of Law Enforcement. The review will consider all relevant information, including from community members and organizations, local officials, the Torrance Police Department, individual officers, and more.

The AG added that the review is part of an effort to identify and correct potential systemic failures in the department’s policies and practices. He said the alleged misconduct could jeopardize criminal cases. So, the district attorney is looking to see if anyone’s rights have been violated.

“There could be civil consequences, there could be criminal consequences. It depends on what they did,” Bonta said when asked what would happen if misconduct is discovered.

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Anyone with information relevant to this review can contact the DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov.