Some serious rubber hit the road in the ongoing Antioch Police Department scandal, as the FBI arrested and indicted a handful of both Antioch and Pittsburg PD officers on criminal conspiracy charges early Thursday morning.
But the much bigger problem always seemed to be the FBI investigation into the department that led to the seizure of those phones and texts, which dates much further back. In an April report, KPIX described that federal inquiry as an “FBI investigation into the Antioch and Pittsburg Police Departments, alleging officers were distributing cocaine and steroids, accepting bribes, intentionally using excessive force, and violating people's civil rights.”
Being the feds, the FBI’s investigation has been moving along more slowly and stealthily than the racist text message scandal. But big hammers dropped early Thursday morning, as the Bay Area News Group reports the FBI raided the homes of and arrested several Antioch and Pittsburg police officers, many of whom are being indicted and arraigned as Thursday goes on.
It’s still unclear how many officers were arrested, but the raids took place at several homes early Thursday morning. The Bay Area News Group lists eight officers facing federal charges, though it’s not certain they were arrested Thursday morning. NBC Bay Area’s Velena Jones notes below that “So far, 7 officers/ law enforcement officials have been arraigned.”
After an early morning FBI raid a number of current and former Antioch/ Pittsburg police officers are in court today. So far, 7 officers/ law enforcement officials have been arraigned. The arrests come after an 18-month investigation into an alleged criminal network. @nbcbayarea— Velena Jones (@velenajones) August 17, 2023
Update: Following a Thursday afternoon FBI press conference, the Chronicle is reporting that nine officers were arrested Thursday.
Mayor Thorpe’s statement regarding today’s FBI arrests of several Antioch Police Officers.— Mayor Lamar A. Thorpe (@LamarThorpe) August 17, 2023
-Office of the Mayorhttps://t.co/Et9AWeqi9U
“Today is a dark day in our city’s history, as people trusted to uphold the law, allegedly breached that trust and were arrested by the FBI,” Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said in a statement. “To those that have accused me and others of being anti-police for seeking to reform the Antioch Police Department, today’s arrests are demonstrative of the issues that have plagued the Antioch Police Department for decades. Seeking to reform the Antioch Police Department is not anti-police, it is pro our residents, and pro officers that have served and continue to serve with honor."
Bay Area News Group reports that the officers were charged with a range of offenses from wire fraud to conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights, and the falsification or destruction of records. Per the Chronicle's post-FBI press conference report, officers Daniel James Harris and Devon Christopher Wenger were also charged with possession with the intent to distribute anabolic steroids.
All of the officers were detained at a federal detention center in Oakland. Some have been offered $100,000 property bonds, other officers with lesser charges are not beig required to pay bail.
Funny how last month in their Contra Costa County hearings, several officers simply didn’t show up to give required testimony, claiming they had “industrial injuries.” But you cannot get away with that when the FBI is pounding at your door in a pre-dawn raid, intent to drag your ass to a federal courtroom with haste.
And the cops' attorneys were quite perturbed over how this was handled. The attorney for Antioch officer Eric Rombough said in court, “There is absolutely no reason for Mr. Rombough to appear here in handcuffs today.”
The costs of the scandal have been staggering, and will likely get worse. According to Bay City News, “As many as 45 of Antioch's approximately 100 officers were placed on leave” over the scandal. Antioch police chief Steven Ford (who is Black and had some racist texts directed at him) suddenly resigned last month. Contra Costa County will likely spend millions re-litigating cases whose verdicts will be challenged because they’re possibly tainted, and many lucky defendants will simply get out of jail free because their cases are definitely tainted.
But the city hopes that these arrests and indictments will start to put a close to this unpleasant matter. “My hope is that we can now as a city, and as a council, understand more of the scope of this investigation, because we’ve been given very limited information,” Antioch Councilmember Mike Barbanica, himself a former Pittsburg PD officer, told the News Group. “I’m glad the investigation is seeming to be concluding, because I believe it’ll give our community closure, and I believe it’ll start the healing process of finalizing the action against these officers.”
Image: Antioch Police Department via Facebook