Thorpe holds press conference on proposed police reforms ahead of “Police Reform Month”

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe speaks on police reform proposals during a press conference at City Hall as Antioch resident and advisor on police reform Con Johnson, the mayor’s policy intern, Lucas Bowman and Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson look on, Monday morning, Feb. 22, 2021.

Held prior to report from Bridging the Gap forums is completed; doesn’t invite all council members to attend; interrupted by protester ending presser; media, resident questions answered later

His proposed reform of demilitarizing the police is “so our officers can be seen as public servants not an occupying force.” – Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe

By Allen Payton

A press conference by Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, was held Monday morning in front of City Hall, to announce his and Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson’s police reform proposals. Announced on his official Facebook page Sunday, it was shown live there, as well. He held it, today in time for what he’s labeled March as “Police Reform Month.” (See video beginning at the 6-minute mark)

Thorpe also invited District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica to participate, but did not invite Districts 1 and 3 Councilwomen Tamisha Torres-Walker and Lori Ogorchock. When contacted before the press conference, Barbanica said the mayor had invited him, last week to an event, today but didn’t tell him until yesterday what it was about. He heard from residents on Saturday morning that it was going to be a press conference on police reform. The councilman said he respectfully declined Thorpe’s invite.

Ogorchock also confirmed that she wasn’t invited and didn’t know anything about the press conference. When asked why he didn’t invite her, since she has asked several times to have bodycams and dashcams be placed on the council agenda, Thorpe said “Barbanica has been asking for them”. When pressed further he said, “Ogorchock could have held her own press conference if she really wanted to push for bodycams and dashcams.” Torres-Walker did not respond to an effort to reach her for comment.

During the press conference Thorpe said he didn’t know why Barbanica wasn’t there.

“Councilman Mike Barbanica was supposed to be here this morning to talk about body cameras and dash cams,” Thorpe said, and that he hadn’t heard from him. The mayor was later informed by the Herald that the councilman had sent him a message declining to attend.

Thorpe also introduced retired police officer and Antioch resident Con Johnson, who is part of the mayor’s Transition Team, advising on police reform. But he didn’t introduce Lucas Bowman, who said he is the mayor’s policy intern and a student at Stanford University where’s he’s taking a gap year from majoring in either political science or public policy. Bowman said his position is to look into whatever the mayor asks him to but that it’s not an official position and that he hasn’t been hired through City Hall.

Thorpe said the reforms are “Important measures that I’ll be proposing to the city council over the next few weeks. I’ll be working with the chief, city manager and police union.”

First, I’ll start by acknowledging…we did lose a resident who was in police custody,” referring to the death of an Antioch resident, Angelo Quinto following a 9-11 call and interaction with Antioch Police officers on Dec. 23. He died in the hospital three days later. The Antioch Police Department has yet to release any details about the incident. Later Thorpe said, “I learned about it the first week in January on social media and I reached out to the chief about that.”

He then spoke about the drive-by shooting in Antioch on Saturday night which injured a firefighter and paramedic.

“In my hour and a half conversation with the chief last night” he said “there is an 11-and-a-1/2-year-old daughter of the suspect who is still missing with her mother,” Thorpe stated.  “Community cameras did help” in the capture of the suspect. (See related articles here and here)

“Police reform has made it to the halls of Congress,” Thorpe then said, and that there are some government agencies that haven’t taken on the issue. “I’m saddened to say, in the area of police reform that’s Antioch. Luckily, the voters have more foresight than those who will divide us over political rhetoric of pro- and anti-police views.”

He then spoke of “common sense solutions…police reforms…so our officers can be seen as public servants not an occupying force,” and that the “reform measures are really a framework.”

Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson speaks on police reforms dealing with mental health.

Mental Health

“The first area is around mental health which has to be the focal point of our reforms,” Thorpe said. “We will seek to have a mental health crisis response team here, in Antioch.” That includes his plan to “have our officers and dispatch workers have mental health review each year.”

That includes the formation of a Mental Health Crisis Response Team, to have mental health professionals respond with police to 5150 calls.

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson then offered prepared remarks about mental health issues on a national level and called for “reducing fatal police shootings in the United States,” and “treating the untreated.”

Wilson then spoke of local government dealing with “homeless related 9-11 calls” and “investing in community-based violence prevention” and to “invest in evidence-based programs that work” and “restorative justice school-based programs.”

“Without the financial investment…we will miss the moment to impact change,” she added.

Police Training

“Ongoing training is critically important,” Thorpe said. He proposed “we establish a training paradigm that is reviewed annually” that includes “implicit bias training, conflict resolution” and how to deal with “LGBT and gender nonconforming individuals,” among others.

Demilitarizing Police

His next proposed reform is on “demilitarizing our police,” saying “sometimes our local police department looks like an occupying force…tanks on our street.” Thorpe proposed an “immediate ban on purchasing military equipment.”

Police Accountability & Transparency

The next reform he spoke about was police accountability. Thorpe pointed out that it’s the mayor’s responsibility to place items on the agenda.

“If it never came back the former mayor decided to not bring it forward,” he said. “We will bring it forward in March.”

Thorpe spoke of having an independent review of “on-duty complaints of police – either in City Hall or establishing an independent” body to review complaints “within 120 days.”

“The police investigating their own department…not everyone believes that that’s fair,” he added.

He wants to “ensure when police officers conduct a stop they give their names and badge numbers and give out a card” with how complaints can be lodged.

Thorpe proposed forming a “council subcommittee on police oversight, first.”

“We will review and audit all police complaints,” he said. “We will proactively review our use of force policies. We can do it here and move those responsibilities over to an independent group.”

Hiring Policies

“We want to make sure that moving forward that all candidates who are currently under investigation will be disqualified from the process,” Thorpe said, as well as those lateral officers who have a history of citizen complaints. He mentioned requiring officers take an “implicit association test.”

His reforms include the hiring process for the chief of police, “that is open, transparent and inclusive of the community.”

Communications With City Officials

“Lastly, the first phase of police reform is…what the mayor and when the mayor and city council will be communicated to,” Thorpe stated. “We can’t be left to social media to find out what’s happening…(it) is simply inappropriate.”

“There will be more to come as we’re wrapping up the community conversations,” he added. “If anything that derives that is out of this framework then we will discuss those.”

Questions & Answers

Asked why the he held the press conference, now, before the report by CNA on the Bridging the Gap forums, Thorpe responded, “that was never intended to inform for police reform for what I’m proposing. We’re at the end. We’re going to hear it. But laying out this information, now is not premature.”

In response to a question about the mental health response team, Wilson said, “we looked at several models in Eugene, OR which has been taking place for the past 30 years. It’s a team that works with the police.”

The press conference was then interrupted by a man complaining that the mayor blocks people on Facebook. When the man wouldn’t stop yelling Thorpe abruptly ended the presser. He then took questions from members of the media and the public.

When asked, “where will the money come to pay for the crisis response team?” Thorpe responded, “That’s what we’ll discuss as policy makers. We have a $40 million budget reserve. All of this talk of defunding this and taking it from there has not come from council members. I believe there are plenty of funds.”

Asked if the Unhoused Resident Coordinator will be going out with police when they engage with homeless residents he responded the existing Community Engagement Team and the Crisis Response Team may be a combined. “We may disband the Community Engagement Team and have them handle issues with the homeless,” Thorpe stated.”

“Do you support turning on the police radios?” he was asked by Antioch resident Lacey Brown by telephone.

“That is something I believe the police department should have over them,” Thorpe responded.

Regarding the death of Quinto, Thorpe said, “I learned about it the first week in January on social media and I reached out to the chief about that.”

Thorpe’s Prepared Remarks:

“Since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a national and global awakening that has made the streets of our nation the epicenter for expression, frustration and hope including right here in Antioch.

Nationally, the awakening made its way to the halls of Congress, made its way to state legislatures, and made its way to many, many local jurisdictions throughout our state. With one notable exception, Antioch City Hall.

If our police department is doing the same things in five, ten, twenty years, we have failed as a city because we did not evolve with the times including our changing demographics.

Luckily, the voters have more foresight than those who seek to divide with “pro” and “anti” law enforcement political rhetoric.

Voters recognized that “reform” is synonymous with progress, improvement, betterment, refinement and adaptation.

In that spirit, today, I am announcing a series of police reform measures that I am proposing as a major first step towards building a police department that every segment of our community can trust.

If looked at objectively, I am seeking to implement common sense solutions that will provide our police department with the necessary tools to do their job in a manner that will allow for our community to feel safe and respected, and equally, will allow for our officers to be seen as public servants and not an occupying force. At the end of the day, the police is the community, and the community is the police.

I firmly believe that police officers are public servants who enter a very difficult vocation where they put their lives at risk on a daily basis, however, it cannot be ignored there are major structural problems in law enforcement when the very members of the community that they are tasked with protecting are afraid of law enforcement.

Through these reforms, I am seeking to build a pathway that will bring us to a place where the community and the Antioch Police Department are partners in preventing and solving crime in our city.

Until then, we have much work to do.

Conceptually, these police reform measures are a framework to begin our work as policy makers.

1. Mental health has to be a focal point of our reforms and not just limited to how law enforcement responds to mental health distress calls but the actual mental health and wellness of our law enforcement personnel. Therefore, I’ll seek to:

a. Require an annual mental health assessment of police officers and dispatch workers

b. Establish a local mental health crisis response team (For that I’m handing over to Vice Mayor Monica Wilson to discuss a measure she’s been developing regarding mental response).

2. Establish a training paradigm, publicly reviewed/updated annually, built around the following principles: 1. Procedural justice; 2. Relationship-based policing; 3. Implicit bias training; 4. Crisis intervention, mediation, and conflict resolution; 5. Appropriate engagement with youth, LGBTQ, and gender nonconforming individuals, English language learners, individuals from different religious affiliations, and individuals who are differently abled; 6. De-escalation and minimizing the use of force.

3. Demilitarize the Antioch Police Department:

a. Ban the City of Antioch Police Department from purchasing and/or accepting military style equipment from federal, state and private entities.

b. Ban the City of Antioch Police Department from deploying any militarized equipment.

4. Increasing police accountability and transparency:

a. Equipping our officers with body worn cameras;

b. Outfitting our police vehicle with dash cameras;

c. Independent review of on-duty police officer complaints either by moving components of the current process out of the police department or establishing an office of police officer accountability (receive, investigate and resolve all civilian complaints against on duty police in 120 days).

d. Require that during all police stops, officers give civilians their name, badge number, reason for the stop and a card with instructions for filing a complaint.

e. Establishing an additional avenue to on-duty officers to report misconduct outside of the current process that requires officers to go directly to a supervisor and chain of command.

f. Establish an interim City Council Committee for Police Oversight (Committee of the whole) until the establishment of an independent police oversight commission, to:

i. Review and approve policy for the police department with community input and expertise.

ii. Review and audit police complaints.

iii. Review resolutions of disciplinary actions.

iv. Proactively review police use of force policies updating the community regularly.

5. Improving police hiring practices to ensure Antioch is not a stop for police officers with troubled pasts:

a. Establish a Chief of Police hiring process that is open, transparent and inclusive of the community

b. Consider incorporating Implicit Association Test (IAT) into hiring process

c. Lateral candidates who are currently under investigation for “excessive use of force” and/or ‘misconduct’ or have a sustained ‘excessive use of force’ and/or ‘misconduct’ complaint on their records will be disqualified from the process

6. And, establishing a notification system that clearly lays out what and when the Mayor, City Council, City Manager and City Attorney should be communicated to concerning major incidents related to the Antioch Police Department.

Today, we take a first step in giving the Antioch Police Department back to all of its residents.

It is my hope that my colleagues rise to the challenge and recognize that those who are fighting to stop us from having this conversation are already on the wrong side of history.”

Please check back later for any updates to this report. Wilson also agreed to send her prepared remarks which, once received, will be published verbatim.

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