Antioch residents demand overhaul of police department after racist text scandal

Residents of Antioch expressed frustration at a packed city council meeting Tuesday night, after the release of racist text messages sent by more than a dozen of its police officers. 

Dozens of people spoke and all demanded change over three hours. 

"It's almost like these cops were looking for Mexicans to target," said one man during public comment.

Speaker after speaker demanded accountability, that the police department needs more than oversight.  It needs an overhaul.

The special meeting was called to discuss audits of internal affairs, how the police department hires, promotes and deals with the issue of equity.

The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office recently released racist, sexist and homophobic text messages among Antioch and Pittsburg police officers.

"The police department is rotten.  We need to have this audit by the people and then we need community policing," said a woman at the podium.

Before the meeting, people marched in protest from the police department to city hall.  Anger and frustration over what they said is  years of police misconduct and violence. 

One man shared a photo of his injuries he said he suffered when an Antioch police officer attacked him at his home for a noise complaint in 2009.

He said that same officer is now among the accused. 
 "He kicked me in the face and he called me ----.  The same thing that what they are guilty of in these text messages now," said Frank Sterling of Antioch. 

The scandal has taken a numerical toll on the department. 

"We have 38 officers on leave," Police Chief Steven Ford said the department has 99 sworn officers.

Ford has led the department for one year and said changes are coming in culture and training but that it will take time.

"I was extremely disappointed.  This is a knock not only on the city but the profession of policing and our jobs are hard enough without individuals making poor decisions and poor choices," Ford said. 

"I'm deeply concerned and outraged," Contra Costa County Public Defender Ellen McDonnell said her office is defending suspects who are potentially  vicitms of police,

"Our office will do all that we can for the victims of this police racism , this targeted violence," said McDonnell.

Brandy Labrie of Pittsburg said she is now waiting to find out if the detectives with the Pittsburg police department in her husband's criminal case are among the accused.  

"He's got an evidentiary hearing. We have a feeling that now that this broke, that those same police officers who've been harassing him and arresting him have cases on him , they're the same ones," said Labrie. 

The District Attorney's office is working identifying cases that have been potentially compromised by the text messages.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe proposed three audits of the department and they were all unanimously approved.

The audits will be an external audit of police internal affairs, police hiring and promotional practices and an examination of equity and police culture. 

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on facebook @AmberKTVU,  instagram @AmberKTVU  or twitter @AmberKTVU