Payton Perspective: Rombough and Co. have to go

The five remaining Antioch Police Officers being sued in the racist text scandal must resign or be fired

It’s a sad, frustrating, embarrassing and difficult time in Antioch, right now. People are angry, want something done, especially our Black residents and rightfully so. The people of our city must have accountability from those paid to protect us and assurances that the racist and offensive texts sent by several Antioch Police officers will never happen again. Plus, our community needs healing. But things need to be done in a way that is fair to all concerned. (See related articles here and here)

The scandal is the real-life fulfillment of what’s written in the Bible verse, Numbers 23:32, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” After reading the texts sent on their personal cell phones and reading the federal lawsuit against them, it’s clear that one officer in particular, and four others should resign immediately to start that healing process and if they’re ever going to be considered men of integrity, again in their lives. Furthermore, they need to find another career path, seek counseling and guidance to become better human beings, be required to publicly ask the forgiveness of the people they texted about, as well as of the people of Antioch that they were sworn to protect, not cost us taxpayers any additional money on investigations, salaries or benefits, and not embarrass us any further. If they don’t quit, they must be fired as soon as the investigation is completed.

Antioch Police Officer Eric Rombough following his hire as a lateral officer from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 14, 2017. Photo by APD

Clearly, the worst of them is Officer Eric Rombough, followed by Sergeant Josh Evans and Officer Morteza Amiri, as well as Officers John Ramirez and Scott Duggar, plus Timothy Manley Williams, who already quit in 2021. It’s no surprise they’re the officers listed in the lawsuit filed last week as they clearly have the most culpability. What they wrote is so disgusting, the fact they found humorous injuring suspects and violating their rights is horrendous, and offering a reward to anyone who would shoot, even with a non-lethal weapon, to injure a sitting city council member is horrific.

Others, including Sgt. James Stenger and Detective Robert Gerber, need to be demoted as a form of discipline within the department for their responses to the texts and not doing what was necessary to stop them. Sgt. Jimmy Wisecarver retired last November, so he can’t face any discipline for his part in commenting on the texts and apparently not doing anything to stop them.

To be fair to the officers, the texts in the two reports were clearly cherry-picked by the DA’s Office Investigator out of all the pages of text messages. (The Herald requested them on Thursday, April 27, 2023. They have 10 days to respond.) Since some mistakes have been found in the two reports, any and all texts between officers during the timeframe of September 2019 through April 2022 should be released. Plus, we should know if there are any texts from any of the department leaders telling the officers to stop what they were doing.

The officers who remain in the department must hold each other accountable, as well – be the first check and balance on the misbehavior and bad attitudes of other officers. They need to remember who pays their very generous salaries and benefits and who they are hired to serve – we the people!

But not all of the 44 APD officers named in the reports, including 13 to 15 remaining department leaders who received the texts, should be fired, nor should they lose their pensions. Nor does the department need the U.S. Attorney General or his Department of Justice to provide oversight. All such demands by officials and residents are a serious and unnecessary overreach. The politicians need to help calm things down and be voices of reason, instead of further stirring up emotions trying to appear sympathetic and pander to certain audiences to get votes.

For most of the others included in the text threads, there’s been an overreaction, specifically blowing out of proportion one text message sent by Antioch Police Officers Association president Rick Hoffman, who is also a sergeant in the department. He merely made fun of one of his fellow officers who claimed he was called a racist. Hoffman didn’t write any texts that were racist or offensive about any citizen.

Here’s that exchange:

On 05/04/2020, At 8:59 p.m., APD Sgt. Josh Evans text, “Kardell’s mom was yelling how we shot and killed someone today. That rumor getting around quick.”

At 9:00 p.m., APD Sgt. Jimmy Wisecarver text, “Laughed.” APD Sgt. Evans replies, “That was right after she called me a racist as cop….” APD Officer Rick Hoffman laughed at the above listed comment and stated, “Well she has a point.


While he and other leaders and officers were included in some of the group text threads, to be fair, how can they be held accountable for something they received, and didn’t respond to, as they may have not read those texts?

Ask yourself if you’ve ever been part of group text threads, group chats in Facebook Messenger or even participated in comments made below the post by someone else or yourself on Facebook or Twitter and may not have seen and read all the texts or comments. Just because somebody included you doesn’t mean you took the time to read what the others wrote. I know I’ve been included in text threads, in Facebook Messenger groups and in posts on Facebook, including my own posts, and haven’t had time to read all the texts or comments nor did I respond to all of them. Maybe I’ll respond to only one or two texts, or even a thread of comments under my own Facebook posts. But who has time to read all of them? I know I don’t. So, how can I or anyone be held accountable for something somebody else wrote that you or I didn’t even see, read or respond to? We can’t. Nor should any of the officers who merely were on the receiving end of one or more of the texts. Lumping all the officers into one group of the guilty is wrong, irresponsible and unfair.

Furthermore, had annual reviews been done for each officer – which haven’t been done for anyone in the department since 2017 – the texts sent or received using their personal cell phones would not have been included. So, the leadership would never have known about them anyway. So, that’s a non-issue as far as the text scandal is concerned. But I believe some of the leaders had to know at least the content of some of the texts and didn’t do enough to stop them.

There are what are referred to as sins of commission and sins of omission. While those leaders who received the texts may not have committed any wrongdoing because they didn’t send out any texts, they are guilty of either not doing what they should by reading the texts to know what those who serve under them were sharing or if they did, not doing something or enough to stop it. There’s only one text referenced in the reports in which one officer said to another that one of the leaders, Sergeant Matt Koch told them to knock it off.

The second report reads, On March 31, 2021 At 3:11 p.m., APD Officer Adams texted…“Haha. I forgot that Koch wanted us to stop sending dumb sh-t. Oops.” (a comment that Rombough “laughed” at)


As for Hoffman, he needs to be a good leader, fall on his sword and at least resign as APOA president for his sins of omission. Because as a sergeant, some of the officers, including Rombough, served under him.

But let’s all slow down a bit, and for all but the five officers still with the department who are listed in the lawsuit, let the investigations be completed before passing judgment. Everybody who screwed up needs to be held accountable however they can be, and that includes those in the Antioch Police Department, as well as the DAs office. That includes disciplining the staff members who merely semi-redacted the first report revealing officers’ phone numbers and the names of the officers included in the FBI investigation as well as the charges they’re facing, as well as to whom the redacted reports were sent and by whom. (See related article)

New Personal Cell Phone Use Prohibition Policy Must Be Implemented

According to Chief Ford, a new policy was implemented last year regarding use of personal cell phones and a restriction on the discussion of police business including suspects with anyone outside of the department. But he said officers can still use their personal cell phones, not just their department issued cell phones, while on duty. I believe that’s wrong, and a new policy must be implemented prohibiting the use of personal cell phones while on duty, and only on their lunch and other breaks, except in a family emergency. I don’t know what other employees are allowed to use their personal cell phones when they’re at work. Officers shouldn’t either. They should be focused on police work and only use their department issued phones while on the job.

Let’s be clear the racist and offensive texts are wrong, horrible, vile, offensive and hurtful whether they were sent on personal cell phones or not. They were egregious, shocking and the entire thing is embarrassing to those of us who live and/or have a business in Antioch and no doubt to the officers who had nothing to do with sending or receiving the texts, and I’m sure to many who merely received the texts and didn’t read them. The bottom line is the five remaining officers named in the lawsuit must be fired and frankly, if they’re going to demonstrate any kind of remorse, responsibility, maturity and respect for the residents of Antioch, resign immediately. Rombough and Co. have to go. That’s what’s necessary to improve the department and begin healing our community. Please join me in praying for that to occur.

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