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Letters to the Editor: Racist cops in Torrance? The city hasn’t changed much since 1963

 A scandal over racist and homophobic text messages sent by officers in Torrance jeopardizes hundreds of felony prosecutions.
A scandal over racist and homophobic text messages sent by officers in Torrance jeopardizes hundreds of felony prosecutions.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I was saddened to read about the virulent racism displayed by Torrance police officers. Your article reminded me of when I was a volunteer for a church in Watts in 1963. We were three young women, the others from Ohio and New Mexico, and our “mission” was to provide support in the community.

During this time, homes in a Torrance tract developed by Don Wilson Builders started being sold — and only to white buyers. I had not been exposed to such purposeful discrimination, so we planned a small demonstration to simply walk on the public sidewalk in front of the homes with protest signs.

The night before, the city declared a 6 p.m. curfew. We were walking on the sidewalk with our signs as homeowners turned their sprinklers on us. Just after 6, the police came and arrested us. That was on my 18th birthday.

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I am so disappointed that seemingly little has changed in Torrance or in many other places. When will it end?

Nora Baladerian, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Kudos to reporter James Queally for his incredible journalism and to L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón for taking action against these cops. Gascón clearly knew what he had when he was briefed on the swastika vandalism case that resulted in these horrifying text messages being uncovered, and his response now has the promise of a long-needed round of rot cleansing.

One of the saddest parts of this mess is that it took the kind of courage, integrity and organizational insight possessed by Gascón and Torrance Police Department Chief Jay Hart, with less than six months in the job, to expose it and quickly do something about it.

The kind of racism, homophobia and antisemitism expressed in the officers’ text messages has been rotting the foundation of law enforcement for too many decades. The response of too many other leaders would have been to handle it quietly and obfuscate or stonewall the leaks — while allowing the rot to continue destroying their organization.

The Times Editorial Board hit the nail on the head in writing that Torrance is “not the only city whose police warrant scrutiny.”

Stephen Downing, Long Beach

The writer is a retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.

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To the editor: I was astounded by your report on the Torrance police officers involved in this vile behavior.

According to a former police auditor quoted in your story, the text messages reveal “an extraordinarily hostile attitude toward people of color, people who are nonbinary, people who have different sexual orientations.” The officers also targeted Jewish people in their messages.

No wonder many people do not respect or trust cops.

Some are on administrative leave, which means they are still receiving their salary. This is wrong. They need to be suspended without pay and possibly put on trial and fired.

How else can we restore faith in police?

Deborah R. Ishida, Beverly Hills

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To the editor: Breaking the blue wall of silence is the only way to regain the public’s trust, stop the assaults on our community and prevent the city of Torrance from having to pay out millions of dollars of taxpayer money for excessive force and wrongful arrest claims.

I hope that other Torrance police officers have the integrity and fortitude to speak up against these bigoted officers now and in the future. Chief Hart’s strong reaction is a good first step in a long road back to gaining the public’s trust.

These officers should never be able to serve our community. I need to know that my children, my students and the kids that I have coached can grow up in a community free of racist and homophobic adults who are hired to protect and serve all.

Jay Estabrook, Torrance


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