LOS ANGELES – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced opening a civil rights investigation into the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO). The investigation will seek to determine whether RCSO has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing amid deeply concerning allegations relating to conditions of confinement in its jail facilities, excessive force, and other misconduct.
“All Californians deserve fairness and respect from the institutions that serve them,” said Attorney General Bonta. “When some communities don’t see or feel they are being treated equitably by law enforcement, it contributes to distrust and hurts public safety. Unfortunately, it is clear that — amid concerning levels of in-custody deaths and allegations of misconduct — too many families and communities in Riverside County are hurting and looking for answers. As part of my office’s ongoing efforts to support constitutional policing, the California Department of Justice is opening a civil rights investigation into the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. Whether you have a loved one in jail or are worried about crime in your neighborhood, we all benefit when there is action to ensure the integrity of policing in our state.”
Under the California Constitution and California Civil Code section 52.3, the Attorney General is authorized to conduct civil investigations into whether a law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law. As opposed to a criminal investigation into an individual incident or incidents, a pattern or practice investigation typically works to identify and, as appropriate, compel the correction of systemic violations of the constitutional rights of the community at large by a law enforcement agency. With regard to RCSO, the Attorney General has made no determinations at this time about specific complaints, allegations, or the agency’s overall policies and practices.
As interaction and cooperation with the community is at the core of law enforcement’s work to provide public safety and create public trust, the Attorney General encourages anyone with information relevant to this investigation to contact the California Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section at Police-Practices@doj.ca.gov. Members of the public may also send information to the California Department of Justice in other languages. During the course of the investigation, attorneys and special agents at the California Department of Justice will work diligently to consider all relevant information, including from community members and organizations, local officials, oversight entities, RCSO, and individual deputies.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to strengthening trust between local law enforcement and the communities they serve as one key part of the broader effort to increase public safety for all Californians. Last year, the Attorney General assumed responsibility for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation related to contracts awarded to a local nonprofit. He worked with authorities in San Francisco to help ensure the continuation of local oversight efforts related to officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and severe uses of force. Attorney General Bonta also opened a pattern or practice investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. In 2021, the Attorney General launched an independent review of the Torrance Police Department and secured a stipulated judgment against the Bakersfield Police Department requiring an extensive range of actions to promote public safety. Attorney General Bonta also established the Racial Justice Bureau within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section to, among other things, help address issues of implicit and explicit bias in policing.