ANTIOCH – During what is arguably the department’s most serious crisis in recent memory, Chief of Police Steven Ford announced Wednesday night that he will be retiring, effective Aug. 11.
In a letter addressed to “To the Antioch community”, Ford said he was grateful for the opportunity and that he has worked with “some very talented and passionate people – it has been a great privilege to learn and grow from them”.
“I am proud of what we have achieved and believe that the foundations have been laid for organizational success,” Ford wrote. “I know that our work to align ourselves with the tenants of procedural justice and constitutional policing will keep this department moving in the right direction. I sincerely hope that our community involvement will continue and thrive.”
READ ALSO Exclusive: Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford Speaks to KPIX About Racist Texting Scandal, Troubled Department
Ford’s tenure has been marred as his department has been under investigation for the past year and a half by the FBI and the Contra Costa County District Attorney for civil rights violations resulting fromsent by officers. The scandal has been big enough for many to call for a federal takeover of the department.
The Office of the Attorney General of Californiaand at least two members of Congress have urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to launch a Justice Department investigation.
At least 45 officers of the department’s roughly 100 officers — including 16 in management positions — have been implicated in a racist and homophobic texting scandal involving threats against Antioch mayor Lamar Thorpe, who is black, and other African Americans and people of color.
Many of the lyrics showed officers using racist language and describing police brutality against suspects.
Dozens of officers have been suspended, at least one fired, and the city is trying to fully staff its ranks.
During the dayof his troubled department, Ford spoke out about the texting scandal.
“It pisses me off. I’ll be honest with you. It pisses me off. I think most people who know me, I’m pretty low-key,” Ford said. “Normally it takes a lot of effort to get me started. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, you know, very angry and frustrated about what I’ve read and seen over the past few weeks.”
At least eight people have filed three lawsuits against the department since the texting story broke earlier this year. An unknown number of officers have been suspended while the investigation is ongoing.
At least one officer has already been charged with crimes related to the texts and more chargers are expected. Charges have already been dropped in at least two cases involving accused officers and suspects who were people of color.
One case involved felony charges against two men accused of mutilating and burning a body near an Antioch trail in October 2022.
Prosecutors said the case could not go to trial because it “relied heavily on the investigative work of Antioch police officers who have been linked to racist text messages.”
Ford became permanent chief in November 2022, after serving as interim chief for six months.
He came to Antioch after 32 years with the San Francisco Police Department.
Ford was hired with a promise to reform a department already under investigation. But the news got progressively worse during his tenure. The city struggles to get new recruits through the police academy and counts on overtime to fill the many vacancies.
Ford said in his letter Wednesday night that he attributed the department’s “numerous achievements to the support of the city council, the great citizens of Antioch and the talented members of this police department who continue to embrace organizational change with enthusiasm and dedication,” he wrote.
“This has made the Antioch Police Department more inclusive, equitable and a better place to work.”
The city did not announce Wednesday night how it plans to fill the chief’s position.