Harper pushes for police body cameras, Antioch Council hears BART extension update, complaints about Animal Services

By Nick Goodrich

Mayor Wade Harper strongly advocated for the use of body cameras in the Antioch Police Department during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 28th. The council also received a report on the progress of the under-construction Antioch BART station, and heard multiple complaints about the state of Antioch’s Animal Services during Public Comments.

Animal Services Complaints

Antioch Animal Services (AAS) was the target of several complaints at the council meeting. During the Public Comments section of the meeting, several Antioch residents—as well as an Oakland resident—spoke before Council on the state of the city’s Animal Services department.

AAS is currently run by the Antioch Police Department, which was a talking point for many of the speakers. The APD, already understaffed and overburdened by crime in the city, is in charge of caring for the animals and putting them up for adoption.

Nicole Salis, a 15 year resident of Antioch, suggested that the animal shelter be moved outside the Police Station to its own location—or, at the very least, be made it’s own department.

Willow Liroff, the longest active volunteer at the Oakland Animal Shelter, made the trip to Antioch to speak about the AAS. She noted that the “Died-in-Care” rate in Contra Costa County—the amount of animals that die in shelters—is currently 0.8%, while the rate in Antioch skyrockets to 4.7%.

The majority of these Died-in-Care cases are cats, said Liroff, which is not too surprising considering the size of Antioch’s feral cat population—but nonetheless unacceptable.

“AAS needs experienced animal welfare professionals,” said Liroff, noting that police are not suited to the job of caring for these animals—and are needed elsewhere in the city, besides.

Police Body Cameras

Continuing a lengthy process of reviewing the effect of introducing body cameras to the APD, Council heard a report from Police Chief Allan Cantando on Tuesday.

While the majority of City Council appears to be in favor of adding the body cameras to Antioch’s officers, growing concerns about the cost stalled the process.

Cantando reported that the biggest cost of any body camera project the city could choose would be that of data storage—thousands of hours of video footage would be recorded, and would need to be stored safely and accessibly, which would present a fairly expensive undertaking. These costs would only grow over time as more footage is added, said Cantando.

He noted that in addition to data storage, extra police staffing would be another cost to consider, and combined these could reach up to an extra $500,000 in spending per year for Antioch.

Cantando also cited several other concerns that factored into the Council’s considerations. A big question mark for him is the fact that most body camera projects undertaken by cities are relatively new, and little is known about the overall long-term costs and effectiveness of such projects. Cantando’s advice to the Council was to wait and see how other cities fared before making the decision.

Several Antioch residents added their comments to the discussion. Samantha Bee and Frank Sterling spoke to Council in favor of the cameras, and three others wrote in their support as well.

Sterling, who was the victim of police brutality and settled out of court with the City of Antioch in 2013, believes body cameras are a big step toward preventing police violence and presenting crucial evidence in cases where it does occur.

“The video of my case exonerated me,” said Sterling, referring to a recording taken from outside of his house as the incident was occurring. He believes body cameras would help others in situations like his.

Mayor Harper, a former police officer, was strong in his support for the cameras, but emphasized the officer protection aspect: the recordings could be used to determine an officer’s innocence if he or she was falsely accused.

These arguments are different sides of the same coin. However, Cantando’s report dissuaded the rest of the Council from offering similar support for the project.

“I don’t disagree that we need body cameras,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock, “But I don’t think right now it should be a priority.” She believes that the proposed costs of the cameras would be better used adding additional officers to the APD, as criticism of Measure C has grown in recent months.

One of Measure C’s goals was to increase the number of police officers employed by the city, but it has resulted in a net gain of only 9 officers in the past 2 years, according to Sal Sbrante, former member of the Measure C Citizen’s Oversight Committee.

Council Member Mary Rocha was concerned with the reported costs of pursuing the project, and Council Member Tony Tiscareno agreed with Chief Cantando that more time should be given in order to see the success or failure of other cities’ body cameras.

“I want it to happen,” he told Harper, “But today’s not the right moment.” The Council received Cantando’s report, but Harper remained adamant in his support of the cameras, promising to continue pursuing the project in future meetings.

Antioch BART Station

City Council also heard a presentation on the status of the Antioch BART station, given by Joel Keller, former Mayor of Antioch. Antioch’s new BART station will be positioned on the median of Highway 4, with parking lots and facilities adjacent to the highway.

The station is nearing completion quicker than expected, reported Keller. He told Council that test trains would begin running on Friday, July 1st, more than a week sooner than had been anticipated.

And more good news: the project is not expected to exceed the budgeted $5.5 million, ensuring that the city won’t be overpaying for its long-awaited entrance into the BART system.

Overall, the council appeared very pleased with the progress report, emphasizing the responsiveness and helpfulness from BART throughout the process. This was underscored by Keller’s report that the BART station will now include escalators, asked for by Council after a previous presentation.

“You have been very, very responsive to the needs of Antioch,” said Harper. “You have done your due diligence, and I want to thank you for all that.”

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2 Comments to “Harper pushes for police body cameras, Antioch Council hears BART extension update, complaints about Animal Services”

  1. I strongly agree with the assertion that Storage of police cam video would be an extreme cost to Antioch. Disk storage and maintenance and outsourcing of the data is very expensive. A recent Time article notes that Using the $1,000 number, it could be thousands or more dollars just to store and maintain the data. This City really needs to stop and think about where we spend our money. Do we spend our tax dollars on Cameras and maintaining pictures or on more officers, I know what my vote is.

    Fred Rouse, resident of Antioch 20 years and Running for Antioch City Council

  2. Karl dietzel says:

    That was a badly prepared presentation, like many others.
    How about having an it professional or a representative of a
    Company which sells body camera systems
    Give a presentation . Any representative of a police agency which had
    Already body cameras Boulder have shed some light in all those open
    Questions .
    My questions are
    How many cases / lawsuits do we have?
    How much money is paid out (settlement) let’s say the last 5 years
    How many internal investigation do we have?
    How many lawsuits are won or lost?

    Most important, what is done/ training etc to protect our officers?

    We, city of antioch, can’t avoid the 21 th century . We need to use
    Available technology .
    Let’s be the big city we are.

    Just an other east of time/ feel good/ can’t do it , meeting

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