Payton Perspective – By 8:1 margin more people oppose than support forming ad hoc committee on police reforms in Antioch, time to de-esculate the situation

Antioch Council members should have handled call for police reforms better instead of causing unnecessary division in our city.

Forming committee sends wrong message that there are systemic problems in the APD.

By Allen Payton

Last week Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe announced his support and desire for the implementation of eight reforms by the Antioch Police Department, as part of a nationwide effort known as 8 Can’t Wait. Police Chief T Brooks, responded the next day explaining how five of the reforms have already been or are being implemented in his department, and why he doesn’t recommend implementing the other three.

That upset Thorpe and he is now demanding the other three be implemented, as well.

Then, Councilwoman Monica Wilson, in Facebook and Twitter posts on Tuesday, June 9, also jumped on the nationwide bandwagon in support of the 8 Can’t Wait effort. In a completely inappropriate way, based on assumptions, she called out her fellow council members, all whom are white, to support the effort, by interjecting race into her complaint that they weren’t speaking out in favor of the reforms, because they aren’t black, writing “We need to stop expecting Black politician’s (sic) to carry the full weight of creating change; I call on my council colleagues to do the same.”

I contacted and asked Mayor Sean Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock if they had heard of the eight proposals before last week. Wright said no, he hadn’t heard of them, before last week. Motts and Ogorchock both said they hadn’t heard of them until after the death of George Floyd. All Wilson had to do was call her council colleagues and inform them about the eight proposed reforms and ask what their thoughts were about them, and why they supported any or all of them or not. That would have been the responsible thing to do as one of our elected leaders, instead of playing the race card and calling them out publicly on social media.

She needs to apologize publicly, tonight to her fellow council members and the public whom they were all elected to serve, for doing so.

Minds Already Made Up, Irresponsible

But, what matters most for this discussion is that, even before hearing from the hired expert on the matter in Antioch, Chief Brooks, before the ad hoc committee is formed or community forums held, and even before taking any public input on the matter, both Thorpe and Wilson have already made up their minds that all eight reforms are necessary to be implemented in our city. Their premature announcements also assume the reforms weren’t already being implemented – which we learned the next day, most have been or are.

That’s not responsible leadership or representative government, that’s political gamesmanship and appearing to get out in front of an issue in the direction it’s already headed to appear to be the leader on the matter, to score points with voters.

What Was A United Effort Is Now Divided

What started out as pretty much everyone being on the same side of wanting those who caused the death of George Floyd – which may be determined to be murder based on the charges against the former police officers – got turned into an issue by some radical elements, their uneducated followers and kneejerk, reactionary, publicity seeking politicians in our nation, that is dividing our country, and now our city.

Those politicians – including three in Antioch, adding Antioch School Board Trustee Ellie Householder to that list, who outrageously participated in a protest at Mayor Pro Tem Motts’ home Wednesday evening – are being irresponsible, elected representatives, who are unnecessarily stirring up their followers and others, using false information and exaggeration, most of which has nothing to do with Antioch.

Very Vocal Minority

The fact is, those supporting the formation of the ad hoc committee and calling for the defunding of the Antioch Police Department are a very vocal minority in our community. In fact, according to City Clerk Arne Simonsen, whose office received all the emailed public comments for Tuesday’s and tonight’s special council meetings, those who oppose the ad hoc committee versus those who support it are running against on an eight-to-one (8:1) margin.

700 people is a pretty good sampling. Nationwide political campaign polls are many times based on the surveying of just 1,000 people to arrive at their results. So, to have only about 90 people write in support of forming the ad hoc committee and over 600 public comments against it, the council members are in a pretty safe position if they oppose forming one.

Furthermore, let’s remember that in 2013 over 68% of the voters in Antioch supported the passage of Measure C, the half-cent sales tax to hire 22 more sworn officers, and in 2018 over 66% of Antioch voters approved Measure W, which increased that tax to a full cent, and most of the funds from it are to be used for even more police and public safety.

Committee Unnecessary as Input Already Received

Besides, with over 700 members of the public submitting comments, even though some aren’t from Antioch, the council has already received the input of the public. I seriously doubt that many people will actually show up at each of the ad hoc committee meetings or community forums, to give additional input.

But, if the council chooses to hold community forums, they must include members from the Police Crime Prevention Commission including the chair, which is made up of our fellow citizens who were appointed by the council to help improve public safety and reduce crime in our community.

No Defunding or Redirecting Funds Spent on Antioch Police

The bottom line is this. In Antioch, at a time we need more police officers on the force to continue to reduce crime in our city, the council must not defund, reduce or redirect any money currently being spent on police or even bring it up as a discussion item. After two votes by the people who overwhelmingly supported increases in spending to hire the necessary number of officers which is 115 currently, but which should be at least 126 to get to 1.2 officers per 1,000 population – the goal our city’s had for the past 25 years – any council member who supports doing anything different should not seek re-election.

Reforms Already Being Implemented, More Issued

What needs to happen is for the council to allow Chief Brooks to give a public report at one of their meetings of what he and his department are already doing to implement the eight reforms, and any other that are being issued by either President Trump, with his announcement on Tuesday, and by the state, with Governor Newsom’s announced reforms, earlier this month. Then, if any council member isn’t satisfied, they can ask to have an item placed on a council meeting agenda, and make a motion to direct the chief to implement whatever other reforms they believe are necessary. If it receives a second and a vote of at least three council members, then it passes and the chief will have to implement them or face being replaced.

That’s how things are supposed to be responsibly handled by the policy-making city council members, and in the future, that’s how they should be.

Unify Don’t Divide

The good news is most of our community is united and want more police, reduced crime and if any reforms are needed, for them to be implemented. We trust our police chief to continue to hire cops that understand how to handle themselves and serve we the people, and will also continue to mete out those officers who shouldn’t be wearing the badge.

What’s also needed is for those calling for the radical ideas of defunding and redirecting funds from police, whether it’s based on false information or just the desire to spend those dollars elsewhwere, to get educated about the issues and understand how police are funded, their purpose – to protect our rights, our families and our property – and stop the false accusations against the Antioch Police Department and its officers. We need all of our elected officials to use their positions responsibly to inform and educate based on facts, and unify instead of divide. Don’t let what’s happening elsewhere in our nation, that’s being hyped by the national media, to happen in Antioch.

There’s been a call for police to de-escalate their interactions with the public. Let’s have our council members be good examples and de-escalate this situation, tonight.

Those are my thoughts, hopes and prayers for our city during this challenging time.

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