Antioch Mayor Thorpe introduces SF Police Commander as new interim police chief, take swipes at APD, past chiefs

New Antioch Interim Chief of Police Dr. Steve Ford speaks after being introduced by Mayor Lamar Thorpe on Wednesday morning, Feb. 23, 2022. Video screenshot.

Fails to inform at least threcouncil members about, invittwo local media sources to press conference; not yet hired, must still go through background check and hiring process which could take weeks. Morefield still interim police chief.

“This is news to me. I had no idea this was going on and coming down, today.” – Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica

Announces proposed new Deputy Chief position

By Allen D. Payton

During a press conference in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, Wednesday morning, Feb. 23, 2022, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe announced a new interim chief of police, San Francisco Police Commander Dr. Steve Ford, but didn’t inform at least two council members, and the city’s public information officer failed to invite at least two local media outlets about it. Only the Times, regional TV stations, and Antioch resident Frank Sterling who works at KPFA radio station were invited to attend. Both Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock were unaware of the announcement event until after. District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker was in attendance, but it’s unclear if District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson was.

When shown a screenshot of the Facebook Live video Thorpe posted on his official Facebook page and asked if he knew about the press conference after it had occurred, Barbanica responded, “This is news to me.”

“I spoke with the city manager last Friday for about 15 minutes and he didn’t say anything about this,” he continued. “I had no idea this was going on and coming down, today. The way I learned this happened was through you (referring to this reporter).”

Asked if he had received the same press release sent out by Rolando Bonilla, the city’s public information officer, that Judy Prieve of the East Bay Times said she received, yesterday, Barbanica said (while looking through his city council email account), “I cannot find a press release in here, at all, regarding this move.”

Ogorchock also said she didn’t know about the press conference until after it was over. Asked if she had received the press release from Bonilla, Orgorchock responded simply, “no, nothing.”

UPDATE #4 2/24/22: Dr. Ford has not yet been hired, as he must still go through the hiring process including a background check, which could take weeks. Morefield is still the city’s current interim police chief.

UPDATE #1: When reached for comment, Torres-Walker said she learned of the press conference from the Times’ Judy Prieve.

“Judy hinted to it as we were discussing a separate matter.She didn’t go into detail,” Torres-Walker said. “Another community member mentioned it, as well. So, I thought I would check it out.”

Announcement

Thorpe introduced Dr. Steve Ford, who according to his LinkedIn page is the Commander of Police, Community Engagement Division, since January 2021, for the San Francisco Police Department, where he said he has worked for 31 years. For the past 12 years he’s served in various leadership positions with the SFPD, including Commander of Police, Administration Bureau from 2019-21, Captain of Police, Strategic Management Bureau from 2018-19, Captain of Police, Bayview Station/Golden Gate Division, Operations Bureau from 2017-18, Lieutenant from 2010-2017 in which he held nine assignments within this rank. From 2015-16 he also served as Acting Captain of Police, Staff Services Division-Department of Human Resources.

Ford earned a Doctoral of Education degree in Educational Leadership ege in 2020, a Master of Science degree in Emergency Services Administration from Long Beach State where he made the Dean’s List and a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration from San Francisco State, where he also made the Dean’s List.

According to Thorpe, Ford’s doctoral dissertation was on community policing. He lives in Pinole, teaches at San Francisco State and plans to continue doing so.

Thorpe Takes Swipe at Department, Previous Police Chiefs

Before introducing Ford, Thorpe took a swipe at the Antioch Police Department and past chiefs hired from within.

“For far too long, Antioch’s Police Department’s pathway to the chief’s position was one that only looked inward from within the existing ranks, which does not work with the Antioch of today,” he said. “By taking the previous approach, our city has not been exposed to the best practices and the new ways of thinking which are so critical to an evolving police department and that are even more critical when wanting to change institutional culture.”

“Unit cohesion cannot be achieved when there isn’t a clear chain of command,” Thorpe continued. “Therefore, I will be advancing a measure that will immediately create a Deputy Police Chief position at the Antioch Police Department that focuses on long-term planning, particularly in addressing attrition, operational effectiveness and much more. We are no longer a small town on the Delta. We are one of the fastest growing cities in the Bay Area as well as one of the most racially diverse cities in the Bay Area.”

He then thanked “current Interim Chief of Police Anthony Morefield and the men and women of the police department for keeping our city safe.”

“I recognize that change is difficult,” Thorpe continued. “But that difficulty can never get in the way of our pursuit to become a better city. It is only through this pursuit that we will be able to keep our city safe while simultaneously making every single resident in our city feel positively connected to our police department.”

Ford Also Takes Swipe at APD, Claiming Need for “Restoring and Bolstering Community Trust”

During the press conference Ford spoke briefly saying, “First and foremost, thank you Mayor Thorpe for having the confidence in me to lead this organization…I certainly appreciate this incredible opportunity.”

It is not clear who made the decision to hire Ford. But the mayor doesn’t have the authority to hire the police chief or interim police chief, only the city manager does, who hires all the department heads in the City of Antioch. Interim City Manager Con Johnson has been given full authority and duties by the city council to hire and fire department heads.

“Restoring and bolstering community trust is critical and I look forward to establishing meaningful relationships with our schools, our businesses, our neighborhoods, our faith-based groups and most importantly and specifically, our youth,” Ford continued. “I look forward to bringing my experience as a practitioner and academic and researcher, to make these goals and aspirations a reality for this organization and our community, as a whole.”

“To Mayor Thorpe, again, our city council all inclusive, and City Manager Johnson, thank you, again sincerely for trusting me to lead this organization. It is truly an honor I don’t take lightly,” the new interim chief concluded.

SFPD Commander Steve Ford. Source: SFPD

More About Dr. Ford

On his LinkedIn page, Ford wrote about his background, “A highly accomplished, knowledgeable and hands-on law enforcement leader and academic administrator with extensive formal education, exceptional administrative/communication skills and extensive university administrative experience, seeking to contribute and utilize a multitude of skills and abilities in a leadership position within a progressive organization.”
Also on his LinkedIn page, Ford lists his Summary of Qualifications as:

√ Excellent communication and interpersonal abilities in leading, administrating, training, supervising and motivating employees to achieve uniform goals and objectives for the betterment of society.

√ Impeccable work ethic; prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure optimal performance.

√ Organized and detail-oriented; skilled at management of time and resources.

√ Diverse breadth of experience; demonstrated success in a wide spectrum of environments including with data-backed, community-centered solutions.

√ Proactive yet diplomatic attitude; interact effectively with superiors, co-workers and community members.

√ Keen investigative skills; oversee long-term investigations to bring resolution to a wide range of major criminal complaints.

√ Strong communicator; able to explain complex concepts in simple terms.

Finally, Ford lists his Core Competencies as: Law Enforcement Management, Diversity & Inclusion, Personnel Mentorship/Team-Building, Crime Data Interpretation, Governance & Oversight, Innovative Leadership, Strategic Planning, Budget Management, Community Liaison, Cultural Competency, Interviews & Interrogations, Multi-Agency Investigations.

According to his bio page on the SFPD website, “Commander Steven A. Ford grew up in San Francisco’s Ingleside district in the Oceanview and attended high school in Daly City. His law enforcement background spans over 30 years and includes assignments in Operations, Investigations, Administration, Special Operations, and Professional Standards-Strategic Management bureaus. Specific positions such as Internal Affairs, Professional Standards-Principled Policing, Staff Services, and serving as the Commanding Officer of Bayview Station resonate most. In addition, Commander Ford serves as adjunct faculty at San Francisco State University and City College where he instructs administration of justice and public administration course work. Moreover, Commander Ford is a published researcher-author in the areas of community policing theory, organizational structure theory, and participative management-procedural justice theory, as well as the nexus between those frameworks and what constitutes a “legitimate” community policing organization.

Commander Ford has also attended the California Police Chiefs Executive Leadership Institute, Drucker Mgt.-Claremont Graduate University, California POST Command College, California POST Executive Development, Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute, and San Francisco Leadership-Chamber of Commerce.

Commander Ford considers his leadership and professional philosophy to be that of a contemporary leader who values the history of the profession, is focused on current challenges, and has a vision for the future of policing. Commander Ford is personable, approachable, nurturing, and responsive.”

Thorpe Wouldn’t Let Ford Answer Questions

Thorpe then took questions from those members in the media in attendance, and wouldn’t allow Ford to answer any of them, including those directed to him.

“I have absolute confidence that Dr. Ford will be able to carry them out,”

“We have an attrition problem in Antioch,” Thorpe said regarding the current lack of police staffing. As of last month, the department was down 21 sworn officers from the 115 approved in the budget, to just 94 actively working. (See related article)

Asked what Ford’s priorities would be, Thorpe answered saying, “

“Hiring externally is a change,” Thorpe said in response to a question about police reform.

Asked when the last police chief was hired from outside the department he responded, “I believe the last three were hired internally. But Chief Hyde was hired from the outside.”

Actually, it was the last two police chiefs, Allan Cantando and Tammany Brooks who were hired from within the department. Prior to Cantando, Jim Hyde was hired, and prior to him, Chief Mark Moczulski was hired from within the department.

Asked by Sterling “can we hear from the chief, at all on any of our questions? Is that possible, today or are we not hearing from the chief, anymore?” Thorpe responded, “I’ll be fielding the questions.”

“So, that’s a no,” Sterling asked, pressing further. “Yes,” said Thorpe.

Questions for Council, City Staff

Asked if Dr. Ford was introduced to Councilmembers as has been past practice, Ogorchock said, “the interim city manager did not even let me know about us getting a new interim police chief.”

Attempts to reach Wilson asking if she knew about the press conference, was invited to attend and in attendance were unsuccessful prior to publication time.

Current Interim Chief Tony Morefield was asked if he knew about the hiring of Ford and if he is the new deputy chief, he did not respond.

In addition, the following questions were sent to Thorpe, Johnson, Bonilla, the other four council members, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith and Morefield:

“Why hold a press conference announcing a major issue of the hiring of a new interim chief of police and not inform or invite at least two of the council members, including the current mayor pro tem, nor two of the three local members of the press who actually cover city government on a regular basis? While Tamisha was there, as Lamar pointed toward her and made a comment about her, was Monica informed of and invited to it?

As for Dr. Ford, who hired him? Was it Lamar or Con? Because the first thing Ford said was, “First and foremost, thank you Mayor Thorpe for having the confidence in me to lead this organization.” So, it sounds like it was Lamar’s decision. The mayor doesn’t have that authority, nor does the council, because the chief doesn’t answer directly to them. It’s the city manager’s job and Con has been given full authority to hire and fire department heads.

Also, when was the decision made to hire Dr. Ford?

Why wasn’t this announced at last night’s council meeting so all the council members could know about it and choose whether not to attend?

Why, as has been past practice, didn’t the council members have the opportunity to meet Dr. Ford before he was hired? Or were some of them offered that opportunity and not others?

Was Rolando instructed to not inform Mike Burkholder (of East County Today) and me of today’s announcement event?

Was, now former, Interim Police Chief Tony Morefield made aware of it before today’s announcement?

As for the attrition in the police department mentioned by the mayor during the announcement event, what do you think are the root cause or causes of it?

Dr. Ford said, ‘Restoring and bolstering community trust is critical.’ With whom in the Antioch community does the trust need to be restored and bolstered? Upon what is he basing that viewpoint?

Also, for Lamar, how can you claim the Antioch Police Department hasn’t followed best practices just because past police chiefs were hired from within?

They have had training by POST that Dr. Ford has according to his bio on the SFPD website and have had FBI training, as well.

What ‘best practice’ had the APD not been deploying?”

In addition, a formal Public Records request was made for any and all correspondence between any and all city staff and council members with and/or regarding Dr. Ford and his hiring as interim police chief.

UPDATE #2: Questions from the Public

More questions from members of the public about hiring Dr. Ford were asked of the same council members and city staff:

“Why do they need an interim chief when they already had one? Is it to slide him in without oversight as an ‘inside’ candidate so he doesn’t have to go through a formal process? Did they mention he and Con are friends and worked together for years in SF? How long did Con and Dr. Ford work together and in what capacity?

How was Ford selected? Was anyone else considered? Will they make him go through the same hiring process as any other lateral police officer coming to Antioch, including a full police officer background, polygraph, psych evaluation and medical?”

In addition, a formal Public Records Act request was made for any and all correspondence between any and all city staff and council members with and/or regarding Dr. Ford and his hiring as interim police chief.

UPDATE #3: Ogorchock Asks Similar Questions, Interviewed by TV News

In response Ogorchock wrote in an email Wednesday evening, “I gave an interview for KRON 4, it’ll run tonight. I asked those questions myself. Here are others I asked: Was there an interview process, or was this pre-planned? When was the first conversation with Dr. Ford about this position? Was this favoritism as they both came from SFPD?”

“Councilmember Torres Walker and the mayor made public statements about the need to hire the next police chief through a public process,” Ogorchock continued. “There was no transparency as I had no knowledge of this happening. Purely frustrated, the Interim City Manager should not be hiring the next police chief, that should be the responsibility of the CM as that individual and the Chief will be working together. We as council should have no say in PD matters as we have no experience in this field, only Mayor Pro-Tem Barbanica has. That is the sole responsibility of the CM.”

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

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SFPD Commander Steve Ford


New Antioch Interim Chief of Police 02-23-22


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