Antioch mayor wants racist text message cops fired, military vehicle retired

MRAP vehicle and Antioch Police personnel on the SWAT and Hostage Negotiation Teams webpage of the City’s website. Source: APD

In undated letter to Chief Ford, Thorpe says he also wants no police union members in APD Internal Affairs

Mayor claims police department is “plagued with deep institutional racism”

By Allen D. Payton

Following the Facebook post by Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker on Thursday calling for the immediate termination of “the officers involved in the racist texting scandal”, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe also called for “the termination of officers” involved in the scandal. In addition, a post on his official Facebook page on Friday, May 19, 2023 reads, “Today, Mayor Lamar Thorpe issued the following open letter to Chief Steve Ford regarding decommissioning the use of the MRAP Tank and the need to bar elected board members of the police union from serving on the police department’s internal affairs team.”

Mayor Thorpe’s undated letter to Chief Ford posted on his official Facebook page on Friday, May 19, 2023.

In March 2021 the Antioch City Council voted 4-1 to ban the future acquisition of surplus military equipment with District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica voting no. Part of that military equipment currently owned and used by the Antioch Police Department is a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) military light tactical vehicle. Now, the mayor and mayor pro tem want the department to get rid of it.

As previously reported, the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 program allows the Pentagon to give extra military equipment to local police departments across the United States. It’s part of their mission of disposing obsolete and unneeded excess property turned in by U.S. military units around the world. The type of property ranges from military-specific equipment and vehicles to generic office furniture, computers, medical items, and shop equipment.

But the mayor thinks the use of the MRAP, which the department now labels a “Rescue Vehicle”, “sends the wrong message to the community” and to “prospective police office(r) candidates”. He also says there needs to be a “clear delineation” between police union leaders from working as members of the department’s Internal Affairs division investigating those they were elected to represent.

Thorpe’s undated letter reads:

Dear Chief Ford:

As I’ve said publicly and privately to you, as the city of Antioch continues to grapple with the reality that its police department is plagued with deep institutional racism, I will continue to focus on ensuring that this issue is not conveniently swept under the rug. Under my watch that will not happen.

As I traverse the city and meet with residents, I am reminded daily that actionable steps must be taken to correct past mistakes. We will not be able to talk this issue away as it strikes as the very essence of who we are as a city – inclusive and open for all. I strongly believe that Antioch residents deserve a police department that every segment of Antioch’s racially diverse community can trust.

In order for us to get there, as well as beginning the healing process, the immediate termination of officers who violated the public’s trust by displaying racism (as established by the FBI and District Attorney and upheld by a superior court judge) is required. Anything less makes all of our efforts, including your community conversations, appear like nothing more than a public relations campaign.

As a result, at next Tuesday’s Antioch City Council meeting, I will be seeking the support of my colleagues to formally direct the Antioch Police Department to immediately decommission the tank, also known as the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. The MRAP was designed specifically for War in Iraq so that U.S. soldiers should withstand improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and ambushes. To date, there have been no such reported attacks or threats in the city of Antioch. (See Item 5 on Tuesday’s council meeting agenda)

As evidenced in a photo on the Antioch Police Department’s website, the tank sends the wrong message to the community and absolutely sends the wrong message to prospective police office [sic] candidates.

I will also be advancing a measure that bars board members of the police union, in our case, the Antioch Police Officers Association, from serving as members of the internal affairs team. If the community is to trust you and established processes, there must be a clear line of delineation between union leaders elected to represent police officers who may have committed misconduct and those charged with investigating those officers.

To move our city forward, tough decisions must be made now. In that spirit, the decommissioning of the tank and the separation of union board leaders from internal affairs will send the very clear message that the city of Antioch is genuinely committed to reforming the culture of the Antioch Police Department.


Lamar A. Thorpe

Questions for Thorpe

Thorpe was asked via email late Friday afternoon what message the ownership and use by the department of the MRAP sends to the community and police officer candidates, and what does the vehicle have to do with the racist text scandal.

Questions for Ford

In addition, the following questions were sent via email to Chief Ford Friday afternoon, and copied to the three members of the Community Engagement team: “Do you have a response to the letter from Mayor Lamar Thorpe, today? Do you agree the ‘police department is plagued with deep institutional racism’? How is the MRAP used by the department? Is it necessary for the department to fulfill its responsibilities of keeping the public safe while also keeping officers safe? Regarding the Facebook comments by Torres-Walker, yesterday do you believe there is a ‘deeply entrenched racist culture within the Antioch Police Department’? Do you have any other response to her comments?

Neither responded prior to publication time. Please check back later for any updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

Mayor Thorpe ltr to Chief Ford 051923 & FB post

MRAP photo on APD SWAT and Hostage Negotiation Teams webpage

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