News article attributes comment by Antioch police chief slamming officers’ union he claims was never made

Reporter claims City’s PIO Rolando Bonilla worked with Dr. Ford and spokesman on statements; Chief informs department; Bonilla claims city manager authorized statement, APD spokesman retracted Ford’s comment Friday night; but APD spokesman says Bonilla didn’t work with him or chief on either statement

“I… have no idea where this is coming from” – Antioch Police Chief Steven A. Ford

KRON4 updates article removing comment attributed to Ford

By Allen D. Payton

A KRON4 News article published Friday afternoon, Feb. 17, 2023 claims Antioch Police Chief Steve Ford took a swipe at his own officers following a statement they issued slamming Mayor Lamar Thorpe on Friday. But Chief Ford denies he made the comment and his department’s spokesman claims it was from the City’s contracted public information officer, Rolando Bonilla. The City’s PIO in turn claims City Manager Con Johnson authorized the statement sent to the San Francisco Bay Area TV station.

The article reads, “Ford wrote in a statement to KRON4, ‘Last night, (Chief Strategic Officer Rolando) Bonilla worked with my team and I to develop and distribute a letter to our community where the Antioch Police Department takes full responsibility for the recent burglaries. As someone seeking to reform the Antioch Police Department, I am troubled by the Antioch Police Union’s attempt to create divisions for the sake of maintaining the status quo. Their circus like antics will not in any way interfere with the necessary reforms I am undertaking within the Antioch Police Department.’”

Screenshot of original KRON4 News article with unauthorized Chief Ford quote published Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.

APOA Denies Ford Took Swipe at Officers

However, according to Antioch Police Officers Association (APOA) President Rick Hoffman, Ford sent out an email message to the department personnel Friday night denying he made the statement.

“Supposedly the Chief called what we did circus antics? Well, we’ve confirmed this was a lie. The Chief never made that comment to KRON 4,” Hoffman informed the Herald Saturday morning. “He’s beside himself pi**ed.”

“We’re getting to the bottom of it and we’ll probably put something out today or very soon. This supposed statement was from Rolando,” the APOA president continued.

“The Chief sent this email to our department last night,” Hoffman wrote referring to Ford’s clarification. “I’ve never seen such a thing.”

Asked who sent that out, Mayor Lamar Thorpe and/or Bonilla, Hoffman responded, “I’m assuming Rolando. We’re getting to the bottom of it.”

Chief Ford’s Clarification email message sent to his department’s personnel on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.

Chief Ford’s Email to Police Department

The email sent by Chief Ford Friday night Feb. 17 to police department personnel reads:


Good evening members of the Antioch Police Department.

I’ve come to learn of an article asserting that I personally authored messaging to KRON4 news.

To be clear, I have had no correspondence of any kind with any news media outlets, and moreover have no idea where this is coming from.

Our sole focus is to continue building into a high performing policing organization anchored in community centered policing, while also emphasizing strong public safety.

I truly appreciate all of you for your effort and dedication to the profession.

Please have a great weekend and stay safe.


Steven A. Ford, Ed.D


Question for KRON4 Reporter Goes Unanswered

A question was sent to the KRON4 reporter, Amy Larson, was sent via Twitter asking, “did Antioch Police Chief Ford send the statement you attribute to him included in your article or was that from City of Antioch PIO Rolando Bonilla?” She has not responded as of publication time.

Questions for Bonilla, Johnson

A link to the KRON4 article, the quote attributed to Ford and a copy of his Friday night email to APD personnel, and the following questions were sent Saturday morning via email to Bonilla, Johnson and Thorpe, and copied to the other four council members, City Attorney Thomas L. Smith and Hoffman:

“Rolando, did you send the statement to KRON4 News that their reporter attributes to Chief Ford which he claims he didn’t make and knows nothing about? If so, did you send it to any other media?

Con and Lamar, were you aware Rolando was sending that to KRON4 and/or any other media?

Did either of you review and/or approve the statement before it was sent out?

What is the process for the City’s public information officer to communicate with the media? Do all of his press releases get reviewed and approved by Con before being issued?

If Rolando did send the statement attributing quotes to Chief Ford he claims he never made and without approval or permission, is that grounds for terminating his contract?”

Bonilla Claims Johnson Authorized Ford’s Statement, PD Retracted

In response, Bonilla forwarded the following email message sent Saturday morning by him to Johnson:

From: Rolando Bonilla
Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2023 9:13 AM
To: Johnson, Con
Subject: Statement


Late last night, I received a phone call from Lt. Mallone [sic] informing me that Chief Ford is backtracking the statement you authorized for release yesterday morning.

You should be aware of this.



Questions for City Manager Go Unanswered

In response to Bonilla’s email questions were sent to Johnson asking, “Did you approve the statement attributed to Chief Ford that Rolando sent to the media yesterday? Did you coordinate the statement with the chief before approving it?”

Questions for Chief Ford, Lt. Mellone

Questions were then sent to Chief Ford and Lt. Michael Mellone asking if what Bonilla claims is correct. They were also asked if there was any coordination between Ford and Bonilla regarding the statement to the media included in the KRON4 News article, and if he directed Lt. Mellone to retract his statement Friday night.

Mellone Responds Denies Ford Made Statement, Working with KRON4 on Retraction

In response to the questions sent to him and Chief Ford, Lt. Mellone responded via email claiming his boss had nothing to do with the statement in the article attributed to him and, “I have had numerous conversations with Chief Ford about this matter and he emphatically denies authorizing any statements to KRON4 in his name about the burglary incidents occurring in Antioch within the last week. He further indicates that the statement as written and attributed to him on the KRON4 news article did not come from him, nor did agree to have such statement published in his name.

I have specifically emailed KRON4 (and been in phone communication with their staff) on the Chief’s request and demanded this statement be retracted because Chief Ford informs me, he never authorized or made it. We have been informed that this statement was provided to KRON4 by Mr. Rolando Bonilla, who as you know, is the City of Antioch’s contracted PIO, however, he is not the PIO for the Police Department. KRON4 is working with us to retract the statement, however, I can see where they were accepting information provided to them by Mr. Bonilla in his capacity as the City’s contracted PIO.

While we investigate this matter, I ask you, and will be asking all Bay Area media outlets in another email to please confirm any statements received from a third party (such as Mr. Bonilla) made on behalf of the Antioch Police Department (or our members) with me. For reference, I oversee our PIO and media relations efforts, so I am the best person to ask for confirmation on these matters on behalf of the Police Department, unless the media wishes to go directly to the source, which I can certainly facilitate.”

Pressed further asking if he had called Bonilla about the matter Friday night, Mellone responded, “I did call Mr. Bonilla last night, because the statement provided to KRON4 indicated that Chief Ford worked with Mr. Bonilla (as a team) to craft the open letter penned in my name to the Antioch Community – this is false. (See related article)

I wrote that open letter entirely myself during the morning prior to the release. I signed my name to it, showed it to Captain Schnitzius and our Chief, transmitted it to media through our normal methods, and posted it to our social accounts which you have undoubtedly seen.

The statement attributed in Chief Ford’s name to KRON4, which I informed is not one he ever made or authorized, indicated my open letter was collaborated over with Mr. Bonilla and Chief Ford on the night after it was released. This is also false, because the letter was authored that morning and posted to our social media platforms at 3:32 pm, not at night which is claimed in the untrue statement attributed to Chief Ford’s name provided to KRON4. The only manner in which Mr. Bonilla was informed of my open letter is when I placed a call to him minutes before distributing it to media according to our current policy. During this call, I told him we were publishing the letter, and we had some conversation which I am withholding at this time while we investigate this matter internally. Mr. Bonilla in no way assisted me with writing any of the content which is alleged in the false statement attributed in Chief Ford’s name to KRON4.”

Further Questions for Johnson, Bonilla and Thorpe Go Unanswered

Additional questions were then sent to Johnson, Bonilla and Thorpe and copying the other four council members and city attorney asking, “Did either of you work with Chief Ford to develop the statement sent to KRON4 attributed to him? Please provide copies of any emails among you three regarding the development and approval of the statement.

Is there an effort to foment division in the police department between the chief and the police officers, specifically the leadership of the APOA? If so, is that being directed by Mayor Thorpe?

Thorpe was asked specifically, were you involved in any way in the development of the statement attributed to Chief Ford? Have you had a falling out with the chief regarding the operation of his department?

Is this part of an effort to create grounds for terminating Chief Ford?”

An additional question was sent to Bonilla asking if what Mellone claims is correct, that they didn’t work together on the statement issued apologizing for the slow response to the restaurant burglaries earlier this week.

Public Records Act Requests Made

A Public Records Act (PRA) request was made for any and all communications by and between Thorpe and Ford, and by and between Thorpe and Johnson discussing Ford since the chief was appointed to his permanent position. In addition, if it’s not provided in response to the email, an additional PRA was made for any communication by and between Con, Steve and Rolando regarding the development and authorization of the statement.

APOA Issues Statement

In a post on their Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 18, 2023, APOA Vice President Loren Bledsoe posted screenshots of the news article and Chief Ford’s email to the department and wrote, “The APOA was alarmed to learn of a recent news report by KRON4 that in part covered a written statement by Chief Ford. In that statement, Chief Ford is quoted as comparing the APOA’s efforts to be transparent as ‘circus like antics.’ Out of concern, we reached out to Chief Ford. What’s more alarming is Chief Ford confirmed he never spoke with anyone from KRON4 or issued a statement of any kind to anyone. We have learned the Department has reached out to KRON4 who is in the process of rectifying the issues; however, in the meantime we felt it prudent to share this information with our community! The APOA enjoys a healthy relationship with Chief Ford and we strongly support his mission and goals for the department, prioritizing community relationships and public safety.

Loren Bledsoe

APOA Vice President

Please review the attachments and the original article, in photographs, because KRON 4 News has since removed the unauthorized statement.”


Screenshot of updated KRON 4 News article.

KRON4 Updates Article Retracting Comment Falsely Attributed to Ford

The KRON4 News article was updated at 12:12 p.m. Saturday with the following statement at the top, “Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove a statement attributed to Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford that the chief said was provided by an unauthorized spokesperson.”

Thorpe Responds

In an email response Saturday afternoon, Thorpe wrote, “I will not stand by as you attempt to create rumor, gossip and innuendo as well as work to create a false narrative about hiring and firing.  So we are clear, I have the upmost confidence in City Manager Con Johnson, Police Chief Dr. Steve Ford and PIO Rolando Bonilla. There will be disagreements from time to time as a result of running a complex medium sized city. But those disagreements have not swayed my opinion of their overall body of work.

No other responses were received prior to publication time. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

KRON4 News article Ford quote 021723

Chief Steve Ford & APOA logo

KRON 4 News updated article screenshot 021823

Bonilla email to Johnson 021823

Chief Ford’s Clarification message 021723

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