Antioch residents demand city leaders consult community members in hiring new police chief

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Friday, July 21, 2023
Antioch residents want to be involved in hiring new police chief
Antioch residents are demanding city leaders to consult community stakeholders in hiring a new police chief after Steven Ford's retirement.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford has made the decision to retire. Many community groups, like the local chapter of the NAACP, are now reflecting on his impact.

"Thank you Chief Ford for accepting the task that was unseen by many. Your ability to work with people, who were ready to undermine your leadership before you started, is amazing," said Odessa Lefrancois, President of the NAACP East County Chapter. She spoke at a press event in front of the Antioch Police Department on Thursday. "His ability to put systems in place to support and heal the community will not go unnoticed."

Wednesday evening, Chief Ford, who declined to be interviewed, issued a statement to announce his sudden retirement.

Without citing a specific reason for retiring, he praised the community and the city. He says the "groundwork has been laid for organizational success," adding, "Because of this, the Antioch Police Department has become more inclusive, equitable and a better place to work."

VIDEO: 'Disgusting': Alleged Antioch PD racist texts addressed as tensions flare at city council meeting

At least two people had to be escorted out of the meeting after a back-and-forth with the Antioch mayor over the alleged racist and homophobic text messages of around two dozen police officers.

"He was everywhere. Everywhere, from school gymnasiums to coffee shops, barbershops, pizza parlors. He was everywhere. We facilitated much of that dialogue," said Dr. Kimberly Payton, the vice president of the chapter.

Chief Ford served with the San Francisco Police Department for 32 years. He was sworn in as Antioch chief just last November, with an FBI investigation already underway, which uncovered a racist texting scandal among officers.

Officials says more than 40% of the police department, including those in management, took part in the sending and receiving texts filled with racist language, homophobic slurs and racist tropes against Muslims and Jews.

Since then, the California Department of Justice has also launched its own civil rights investigation earlier this year. It met with both city staff and the police department last week.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney Office released a third report within the past week, which depicts racist texts directed even towards Chief Ford. In one text, Officer Jonathan Adams writes: "Have you met the new (gorilla emoji) chief yet?"

VIDEO: New report reveals Antioch officers referred to police chief as 'gorilla' in text messages

A new 128-page Contra Costa County District Attorney's report reveals Antioch officers referred to Police Chief Steven Ford as a "gorilla."

"I did have a conversation with him about the racist texts messages. Very unfortunate situation. This is not the first time for this police department. They said they wanted to shoot me," says Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

Thorpe says the city is still safe, but acknowledges there are issues the city continues face.

"We are going to have a recruitment, national search for a city manager. We are bring on a consulting firm for these executive level positions. We will obviously add the chief of police position to that as well," explains Thorpe.

Community groups are calling the city to include community stakeholders when hiring a new chief.

"It has been expressed by the community that they want to have a voice, and to have a say in who is picked, and who comes next. Somebody has to being cleaning up this mess. And they community that wants to heal should certainly have a voice in that," says Payton.

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