Antioch police chief called to discuss impact of FBI investigation on staffing

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Antioch PD chief to discuss impact of FBI investigation on staffing
Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford will speak at Tuesday night's city council meeting to explain the impact of misconduct investigations on staffing.

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford is being called to speak at Tuesday night's city council meeting to explain the impact of officer misconduct investigation on staffing and the plan going forward.

"Back in November of 2009, I was out with my friends at local bar. When the bars closed, we came home. And we turned on the beatbox that we had at the house," says Frank Sterling, a life-long Antioch resident.

As Sterling describes, it was late at night and his neighbors called the police about the noise. He says after the police arrived, the confrontation quickly escalated.

"They demanded that they see everybody's ID. They wanted to check if we had any wants or warrants," explains Sterling. "The officers started to say they smelled marijuana in the house. They kind of prolonged their stay at the door, and really wouldn't leave. I shouted out to my neighbors that this officer was harassing us!"

Sterling says officers dragged him out of his house and attacked him. A neighbor filmed the interaction, which was used his is lawsuit against the department.

RELATED: Mayor wants audit of Antioch PD after judge releases officer names involved in alleged misconduct

"I was looking up, and Officer Rick Hoffman was standing above me and that's when he looked right at me, and he said, 'This is what you get when you f**k with the cops, you f****t!' And he kicked me right in my eye, basically busted my whole eye open," says Sterling.

Sterling sued the police department and won. But he is concerned that since then, Officer Hoffman has been rising through the ranks. In 2019, Hoffman was praised for graduating from a leadership development program. And he is currently president of the Antioch Police Officers Association, or APOA.

Now, Hoffman is one of the 17 Antioch police officers named in an FBI investigation into the department for allegedly sending racist text messages.

"It has now been, since 2009, 13 years at least, that they have let him fester in the department, and rise up and become the APOA leader? And I think, really, that's what police Chief Ford is up against in this department. That these guys are running the operation," says Sterling.

"Staffing levels are at a critical state. We have 61 officers that are currently active. We have 99 on the books, but only 61 that can be on patrol, so there is nothing normal about any of this," says Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe.

RELATED: Antioch mayor announces more officers placed on leave after investigation into police dept.

For the past year, the Antioch Police Department has been under a federal and state criminal investigation for wide range of offenses. It was during that investigation that the text messages were discovered.

Last Friday, a Contra Costa County judge released the names of 17 officers, or about 20% of the entire police department, who were put on leave for the alleged racist text messages.

Those text messages were released to the public defenders on Monday. A redacted version has not yet been released to the public.

The Antioch Police Department declined to comment for this story. For its part, the Antioch police union previously issued a statement saying that it hopes the investigation is conducted in a timely manner, but adding, "We will not fall victim to the rhetoric of outside influences who aim to ridicule and discredit the hardworking members of the APOA."

City Councilmember Michael Barbanica says he is concerned about public safety but won't speculate on allegations against the department.

"I have full confidence in Chief Ford in what he brings to this organization. As I have full confidence in the many men and women working for the Antioch Police Department, who are still coming to work, every day, day in and day out, who are not involved in anything. And they are doing everything they can to keep this community safe," says Barbanica. "Those are people who truly need our support."

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