Antioch police chief's abrupt retirement raises community concerns over troubled department's future

The Antioch police chief’s abrupt retirement has community groups worried that a lack of leadership will worsen problems that have plagued the department for years.

Chief Steven Ford announced Wednesday that his last day is August 11. He is the second top Antioch official to depart in recent months. Antioch City Manager Cornelius Johnson was placed on leave in March and resigned last week.

The East County NAACP said it was saddened by Ford’s planned departure following his work to address racism, unnecessary use of force, and a lack of trust among community members.

"Somebody has to begin cleaning up this mess," said Kimberly Payton, vice president of the East County NAACP. "The community that wants to heal should certainly have a voice in that – to pick up where Chief Ford left off."

The retirement announcement comes as the beleaguered department continues to see fallout from the racist texts and officer misconduct scandal and controversy. Ford previously called the scandal a "disturbing situation."

More than a third of the department has been implicated in the scandal and at least three civil rights lawsuits have been filed against officers.  

Ford did not give a reason for his retirement. Requests for an interview went unanswered Thursday.

"Change sometimes is a little bit painful," said Acting City Manager Kwame Reed who also serves as the city’s economic development director. "Change is inevitable. But we’re going to get through it."

Ford leaves after a little more than a year on the job. Reed has not yet named an interim replacement.

"It was shocking. It took us all by surprise," he said.

Ford is credited with making more than 40 internal changes to reform the department.

"I am proud of what we have accomplished and firmly believe the groundwork has been laid for organizational success," Ford said in a statement. "I sincerely hope our engagement with the Community will continue and flourish."

KTVU learned Ford was subpoenaed along with more than a dozen other officers in the texting scandal. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday morning.

"This department is in turmoil, and he’s the one that could have brought it out of it," said Attorney Mike Rains who represents the Antioch Police Officers’ Association. "It’s going to be hard to find somebody to do that now."

He said Ford mentored younger officers but clashed with Mayor Lamar Thorpe and other city leaders over how to run the department.

"I think he just finally got tired of not being able to make the decisions to guide both the investigation and the department the way he wanted to," Rains said.

Thorpe said in an interview Thursday that despite challenges, he hopes the next chief will build off the reforms Ford brought to the department.

A national search is ongoing for a new city manager and the mayor said a police chief will get added to that search.

"One individual or one role doesn’t define the entire city." Thorpe said. "We have to deliver on the promises that we told people we would deliver. Part of that is building trust with the community and having a police department that serves all people of our city."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU 


Antioch police chief announces retirement from department

Chief of Police Steven Ford of the Antioch Police Department announced his retirement Wednesday.