Archive for the ‘City Council’ Category

Antioch Council gives support for all proposed police reforms, body and dash cams during 7-hour meeting

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

The Antioch City Council members and city staff listen to Police Chief Brooks give his presentation before discussing the various police reforms during the 7-hour special meeting on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Video screenshot.

Directs staff to return with policies on each for future votes; no findings offered to support need; council majority says no to new high-tech tasers that automatically activate body cameras; Mayor Thorpe says department receives 20 to 40 complaints per year

Councilwoman Torres-Walker continues her anti-police rhetoric with comments like “I would not support putting any youth in the room with a department that is currently in reform” and “We should not be at war with our community. We don’t want to see storm troopers on the streets of our communities.”

By Allen Payton

During their special council meeting on police reforms, Friday night the Antioch City Council, voted to support all the proposals Mayor Lamar Thorpe put forward, in spite of being provided very little data to support the need and although the police chief reported the department was already implementing all the reforms from President Obama’s blueprint on policing. Most passed on 5-0 votes, some on 3-2 votes with District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock opposing, and one vote of 4-1 with Ogorchock casting the lone opposing vote. Each motion, most of them made by District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker, were to direct the city manager and staff to develop policies on each item for the council to vote on during future meetings, but did not ask for data, evidence or findings to demonstrate the need for any of the proposed reforms.

For the body and police car cameras, which had the support of all members of the public who offered their comments and all council members, they directed city staff to return with a proposal including costs for the council to approve, which could happen as soon as their next meeting on March 9.

The only motion to fail was made by Barbanica and seconded by Ogorchock to add tasers with Bluetooth technology that when deployed, automatically activate a police officer’s body camera. Even though it was explained by Antioch Police Chief T Brooks that they’re part of the same package with body and dash cams, and without explanation, Thorpe, Torres-Walker and Wilson voted against the motion.

The council heard over 300 public comments on the eight agenda items, most of them about the response to mental health crises, which resulted in the meeting lasting more than seven hours, until after midnight.

Opening Remarks by Council Members

Opening comments were offered by the council members in order of district number following the mayor’s.

“Today, marks our first step in building a police department that every segment of our community can trust. We know that the police is the community and the community is the police. In that spirit, community voices are a critical component in improving the perception of police legitimacy and fairness.

Please understand, when special-interest groups label any critique of our police department as opposition (like anti-police, cop haters, defunders, abolitionist, etc.), they are deliberately obscuring the distinction between undue attacks and legitimate criticism of practices and/or policies. To that end, this resistance to transparency and accountability, reduces police legitimacy among different segments of our community, making individuals less likely to report crimes or work with law enforcement to solve crimes.

I’m asking council members to have the same foresight voters did in November of 2020; instead of falling into the trappings of those who seek to divide us with ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ law enforcement political rhetoric. Voters recognized that ‘reform’ is synonymous with progress, improvement, betterment, refinement and adaptation.

Today’s measures, in my opinion, are 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 respect, and equally, will allow for more members of our community to see law enforcement officers as public servants.

Our job this evening is to adopt a framework for police reform so that we may begin our work as policy makers. In short, we’re designing a blueprint around police reform.

As part of this process, council members will be allowed to take a few minutes to make opening statements.”

He then mentioned that over 200 public comments had been submitted.

“Please note, for the public, that whether or not your comment is read, it will be part of the public record,” Thorpe added. (That approach was later changed, after the city attorney told him all the written public comments submitted before 3:00 p.m. had to be read).

“Change is never easy…we are willing to risk the lives of others to do so,” said District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker. “Bounded in oppression as slavery for those who refuse to move forward and look forward.”

“I have heard over the past week that the world is watching,” she continued. “Like the world watched the lifeless body of Michael Brown in the street in Ferguson for four hours and…George Floyd. Justice for people in dark bodies has been delayed for decades.”

“We have begun to repair the breach of trust with this city department,” Torres-Walker said.

She then spoke of the need for “credible violence prevention solutions,” and said, “I am asking the city council…to establish an office of public safety…to redefine what will make our city safe.”

“Change is hard but it’s necessary,” Torres-Walker added.

2/28/21 UPDATE: Torres-Walker posted the following prepared opening remarks on her council Facebook page on Sunday:

“The world is watching. Like the world watched Michael Brown’s lifeless body lay in a Ferguson street for four hours. Like the word watched George Floyd for what we now know was 7 minutes and 46 seconds pleaded for his life and call for his mother.

There is no swift justice. Justice for Black people, people in dark bodies, and poor people has been delayed and or differed for centuries and today is no different.

What we are doing today is the floor and not the ceiling.

With the establishment of an independent police oversight commission, demilitarization of the Antioch Police Department, body cameras and dash cameras as well as independent investigations into police use of force, misconduct, and harassment we have just begun to repair the breach of trust between this city department and the community it serves.

I also want to acknowledge at this moment the families and individuals in our community that have been impacted by gun-related violence not just in the past few days but over the last few years this to must be addressed with credible violence prevention strategies, resources, and good public policy.”

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica spoke next, offering his condolences to the family of the man who died in police custody, early Wednesday morning, assuring them that an independent investigation is underway and that the report will be made public. He then thanked those who had reached out to him, this week and offered their input for tonight’s meeting.

“I want to make sure our decisions are based on people who reside within our community. I look forward to hearing from our citizens,” District 3 Councilman Lori Ogorchock.

“The last few months have been hard on Antioch. Change is coming,” said District 4 Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson. “We cannot keep on the same course but should always look for ways to improve.” She spoke of “the perfect storm of innovative thinking, the audacity to consider reform and the public support for systemic change.”

“When I first got elected mayor, the chief and I had a great meeting about the reforms he was making in his department,” Thorpe said. “He expressed to me he was a willing…partner.”

Police Chief’s Presentation

Chief Brooks then offered a presentation on what his department is doing to implement reforms.

“We at the Antioch Police Department are constantly looking for ways to improve,” he said. “We have some of the best and brightest” working for the department.

Brooks mentioned “having healthy, happy and well-trained officers.”

He spoke about officer wellness and evidence based and intelligence policing. “This allows us to build trust by working with neighborhood residents.”

“If you look at these items, tonight…extensive community engagement efforts…you’ll see I’ve been following Barack Obama’s blueprint for policing,” he stated.

(Editor’s Note: Please check back later for more of the chief’s presentation)

Mental Health

For the first subject on the meeting’s agenda, mental health, Ben Adam Climer, introduced as a mental health expert, gave a presentation, saying he was “a five-year veteran of the police CAHOOTS team in Eugene, Oregon.” He is now a consultant that helps cities develop the CAHOOTS model, which has been around for over 30 years, he stated.

According to the CAHOOTS website, the program is a non-emergency, first response to residents experiencing mental health, substance use, and homelessness related crises.

The program is funded entirely by the cities of Eugene and Springfield, with a combined population of 230,000, has two vans that operate 24 hours a day.

“No CAHOOTS worker has been injured on the job when interacting with someone in crisis,” he added.

“The EMT…can help us rule out some things that are physical instead of mental health issues…and the ambulance doesn’t have to be called,” Climer explained.

“The CAHOOTS team is sent out pretty much the same way the police and fire department are,” he stated. “Call takers receive the (9-11 call) requests. Almost 95% of the team the police don’t have to go out on the call.”

“The CAHOOTS team members also go out on welfare check calls,” Climer shared.

MCIS and Race – BIPOC communities – it does not rely on the Western model of mental health – with people who might have different cultural or ethnic…

“The team is not part of the police department, but Eugene PD estimates CAHOOTS diverts 8-10% of total police calls,” Climer said.

“In 2018 86% of responses involved no police, 13% were calls for police assistance,” he shared.

On the cost savings Climer shared because of the program there were “just under 3,000 ER (emergency room) diversions and over 2,000 ambulance diversions” and it “saves $8.5 million per year for the local fire” and other agencies.

The program in Eugene and Springfield had “about 29,000 calls in 2019.”

He mentioned the Co-Response Model and that “the CAHOOTS model does not use involuntary holds. It has a medical component. It is cheaper. It is more flexible.”

Climer shared that the CAHOOTS is Para-clinic and Paramedicine and the “crisis workers are not licensed clinicians. They are para-clinical and are able to assess when someone needs to see a licensed clinician.”

“We want to see this model everywhere. I think it would be an amazing thing for any city to have,” he concluded.

“This is just one model, not necessarily what we’re considering…(it’s) for discussion,” Thorpe said.

Barbanica asked what the staffing would be for a city our size.

“I usually recommend that for a city of 100,000 you have one 24-hour unit…with between 11 and 12 employees,” Climer responded.

“Does that include everything,” Barbanica asked.

“It really depends on who ends up doing it,” Climer mentioned, speaking of a non-profit.

“The CAHOOTS team is weird, it has a lot of part-timers and some full-timers,” he added.

Asked about the costs, Climer didn’t offer specifics, but said, “Eugene is getting money for their program from the county.”

He also shared that “the same non-profit and the same team works both cities.”

“Mental health is an important topic…this part of the agenda is discussion of a crisis response team, but also a component of an annual mental health assessment of police and dispatch workers,” Thorpe stated.

“We aren’t voting on anything, tonight. This is just a framework,” he said.

Public Comments

With an estimated 130 written public comments submitted and 170 participants in the audience who wanted to speak on multiple items, the council then discussed limiting the comments.

“The council has to make a decision and we need to get to that point at some point,” Thorpe said. “We may just have to put those into the record.”

“The meeting rules that govern a special meeting aren’t the same as a regular meeting…we don’t have to read all the comments but submit them into the record.” he stated.

But City Attorney Thomas rebuffed that idea saying, “The problem we face here, is when people are given the rules for public comments ahead of time they were told if they submitted their public comment by 3:00 their comment would be read…their comments have to be read.”

“You’re free to set whatever time limit…to get to the business of the council,” he pointed out.

The council then decided to limit public comments to one minute each.

Several comments were from people from outside Antioch.

At the end of the live public comments for the item, Thorpe didn’t like one of the comments accusing him of saying something about “Black on Black crime” and that it was disrespectful of Black people, and it should just be referred to as “crime period.” He responded by saying “that never came out of my mouth” and the council then took a break from the meeting.

Upon returning, City Finance Director Nickie Mastay and City Clerk Ellie Householder read the written public comments submitted for the agenda item.

Some were the same form letter about the death of Angelo Quinto, which occurred three days after an interaction with Antioch Police Officers, as part of a national coalitio, of 138 Filipino organizations, including Gabriela Oakland, that claimed to have gathered over 22,000 signatures, mainly from people outside of the city, using the term “murder”. A variety of comments asked that funds be redirected from the police department to pay for a mental health response team and mentioned  the Miles Hall Foundation, named for a 23-year-old Black man who died after being shot by Walnut Creek police in 2019 while having a mental health episode, according to a CNN report.

Other comments were critical of the mayor and Torres-Walker for their support of the reforms, and one stating she needed to recuse herself due to her bias. A few members of the public asked for more spending to fight and reduce crime in the city.

Council Discussion on Mental Health

Three hours after the meeting began, and following the public comments on the first agenda item, the city council members then discussed the matter of pursuing a mental health approach, including the possible establishment of a crisis response team, to respond to certain 9-11 calls instead of dispatching police.

Barbanica spoke first saying, “I’m very supportive of something like this enacted. But I’d like to have the city look at the program the county is about to begin…the Community Crisis Response Team. This has been worked on since last fall.  It’s countywide and being set up so you can call 9-88. Assembly bill 988…using some tax from cell phones. This is a 24-hour program. The county expects between June and July they’ll launch the program. I’m very supportive of this idea to do this, but being the county already has wheels in motion to do that, we should look at putting our money in that, first. Hopefully, we could get the same response.”

“I just want council to understand that the presentation that we had on CAHOOTS is just a framework,” Thorpe said. “I want the council to decide tonight if a crisis response team is the direction we want to go in. Then we can bring back if we want to go with the county or the CAHOOTS model.”

“I’ve been a community member standing by for the past five years and this isn’t the first time…I’ve heard of a mental health crisis response team be implemented. This council has had the political will. I’m hoping we can do something as expeditiously as possible so

“I spoke with Lavonna Martin, today and she shared what the county is doing,” Ogorchock said. “The main phrase is anyone, anywhere, anytime…and that services are available to all residents of the county. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. They’ve been working on this since last year.”

Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson said, “This has been a long time coming. The point of me reaching out to CAHOOTS…great program. Want to hear more about what the county is doing. We heard from a bunch of programs. We can’t wait any longer. I want this to come back at the next meeting. I’m more than willing and open to hear what others have provided. What’s going on with mental health for half a century since mental health was defunded. We need to move forward.”

“I’m familiar with the county model, as well…we’ve been briefed on this,” Thorpe said. “I’ve sat through the CAHOOTS model three times so I’m familiar with that and the Denver model, as well. I still believe we need to look at mental health evaluations for our police officers and our dispatch workers. What the police chief mentioned earlier, I want to remind our council that’s all voluntary.”

“What you’re saying is it’s available but it’s not mandatory,” Torres-Walker said. “The goal isn’t to give the department more money but make it mandatory to participate in the services that already exist. Is that correct?”

“Correct,” said Thorpe.

Barbanica was not in support of the annual mandatory mental health evaluations. “That’s a big jump. It may run into…problems,” he said.

“I too did not realize that would be part of this conversation,” Ogorchock said. “I’m not in support of the second part of that.”

“We are going to look into these options to come back,” Thorpe explained. “I think the phrase evaluation is not the right one. The mental health and wellness of our officers should not be voluntary. It’s cumulative.”

“If this is the direction our council is going, I’m not sure it can be on March 9th,” Ogorchock said.

“I agree with you. I wouldn’t ask council to put dates on things. Let me and the city manager and the chief figure that out,” Thorpe said. “There may have to be some special meetings in there.”

“I really implore you to bring it back as soon as possible, the mental health response,” Wilson reiterated.

She then made a motion to have staff bring back options for council to decide on mental health crisis response and for mental health evaluations for police and dispatch workers.

“We could have program models and options for mental health crisis response,” City Attorney Smith clarified.

The council approved the motion on a 5-0 vote.

Training

The mayor wanted the council to provide principles for the police “as part of the framework for the training in our department.”

“I support more training. I would just like to see city hall with the chief to develop it,” Barbanica said.

“This is just adding the community voice to it,” Thorpe stated.

“I agree with training.  You can train and train as many people as possible. I’ve never heard from many people in law enforcement that any of the training works,” Torres-Walker said. “My clarification is that this training will come out of the current budget of the police department.”

Thorpe responded that there would be no discussion on the budget during the meeting. “In some instances it might be shifting priorities. It’s a matter of establishing it, first. It may not cost anything. It may cost something. We need the feedback, first.”

“I want to get back to something said about police involvement in youth development…the least interaction with law enforcement, especially negatively, is important,” Torres-Walker said. “And I would not support putting any youth in the room with a department that is currently in reform.”

“I want to make sure the chief is involved in this,” Ogorchock said.

Public Comments on Training

Only a few people offered public comments on the matter of police training.

“What training is currently being given? What training is needed,” wrote Antioch resident Sal Sbranti. He than wrote the council needed training to be more professional.

Another referred to the council members as unqualified and “Monday morning quarterbacks” in

Another offered support for implicit bias training, signed by five people.

“How are we going to break down the codes, the codes of silence? another asked

“Training definitely has to happen. Mental health evaluations of officers are needed every year. Drug tests, too including illegal steroids,” another member of the public said. “You can’t train people to be obedient somewhere. Accountability has to come in somewhere…when the training fails, they must be held accountable.”

“Accept the training that we offer,” another said referring to an organization she runs. “Trainings won’t fix the problem. Only consequences fix the problems. I am heartbroken because I live in this city.”

Patricia Ganados spoke about mental health evaluations of police officers saying, “our local officers do deal with stress. The military does it every year. To prevent any more unnecessary deaths in Antioch.”

“On this one I would ask you go back to chief and come back to council with something you’re both comfortable with…with a little more explanation from the chief and yourself,” Ogorchock said.

“So, is the motion to direct city staff to go and get modules that includes everything the mayor said, tonight,” Torres-Walker said.

“Yes,” Thorpe responded.

“I make that emotion,” Torres-Walker said. Wilson seconded the motion.

“As a point of clarification, we are directing the city manager to work with city staff around these issues,” Smith interjected.

Torres-Walker then clarified her motion, to direct city staff to work with the chief of police on a training program.

“I’m kind of surprised we’re making motions on each of these items,” Ogorchock said.

“You can choose to codify it. It’s not a requirement,” Smith said.

The motion passed 5-0.

Demilitarizing Police

Thorpe wants to ban the purchase of additional military equipment. Torres-Walker supported that and wants to ban the use of the equipment the department already has.

Barbanica spoke first saying, “I have thought a lot about this…over the years. Being in the position of being on the street. At first, I wasn’t a big fan of taking military equipment. But the availability of taking certain equipment can have its benefit. I don’t want to have a military force on our street.”

“We currently have three,” he continued. “There are some sites for rifles. There is a vehicle, a rescue vehicle that is bullet proof. And there are some guns that are ceremonial guns.

“I know that vehicle is what’s controversial,” Barbanica stated. “The use of it has to be approved by a ranked individual. That’s when something is going really, really bad. Just look at what has happened in our community, recently.”
He then spoke of the hostage situation at the ARCO station a few years ago.

“That vehicle was used to rescue those hostages,” he explained. “There was another time when an officer was shot in the head and people were taken out of that area in that vehicle. Our officers are facing a lot of heavy fire power out there. We have a duty to make sure our police personnel are protected.”

Public Comments on De-militarization

“Our police should not be outgunned,” wrote Sal Sbranti

“Just today APD officers arrested a man with an assault rifle,” Jesse Zuniga wrote.

“I don’t believe it should be about parades and putting people of color on a tank,” one public commenter said. “I don’t think a tank for everyone of them is the answer.”

“For me you would look at the list of what you need to purchase and what you need to be purchased by APD is body cameras,” another said. “Then you look at what is protective gear, not assaultive gear.”

“Law Enforcement Assistance Administration…they produce programs and funding for law enforcement,” another speaker said. “It is wrong to militarize police departments. Equipment such as tanks are not necessary. Shields and so on…for years and years, police departments were able to defend themselves without that. So, it’s not needed.”

“I’m for getting out of militarization,” said Frank Sterling.

“I would also like to say the militarization of police on our streets directly stems from the war on drugs,” Torres-Walker said. “We should not be at war with our community. We don’t want to see storm troopers on the streets of our communities.”

“I would like to hear from our chief how important the M-WRAP is to our community,” Ogorchock said.

“The military equipment we’ve received…all of those have been given to us for free,” Chief Brooks said. “It is generally used on high-risk search warrants on individuals who are generally armed and dangerous and wanted for murder. It was recently used on a house where individuals were manufacturing assault rifles.”

“It’s used about 10 to 15 times per year,” he continued. “It is not an offensive vehicle. It is not a tank. It’s on the same chassis that’s used for commercial vehicles.”

“It offers a high level of ballistic resistance,” Brooks stated. “It’s mainly used for protection for our officers…when there is a high risk of injury.”

Asked by Ogorchock about the vehicle’s use to assist other police agencies, he responded, “it is an asset that’s used by other agencies, as well. It is requested by outside agencies.”

“Today’s criminals are carrying that are highly sophisticated and use bullets that pierce vehicles,” Ogorchock stated.

“Not to get any more but not to get rid of?” she then asked Thorpe.

“This tank was designed for improvised explosive devices in Iraq. If that’s what we want on our streets, then I’m happy to discuss that,” Thorpe said.

“As the chief said, it’s not a tank,” Ogorchock responded.

“The decision tonight would be directing staff to come back with a policy that the City of Antioch does not want to purchase any military equipment,” Thorpe said.

“I definitely would like to have a larger conversation than this quick Friday night thing,” Wilson said.

“If banning the use of military equipment in our city as well as the use of mutual aid, there have been police departments across this country…where peaceful protesters have been hurt,” Torres-Walker said. “We should not be using military equipment.”

“We should ban even free military equipment. We need to learn to manage well our policing services…so we don’t have to be at war with our citizens,” she continued. “Can we sell the tank? $700K could go a long way for youth services.”

“I agree it’s a bigger conversation,” said Torres-Walker but then made a motion to direct staff to develop a policy to ban the purchase or accepting of military-grade equipment and bring it back to council.

Wilson seconded the motion.

“I wanted to separate out the current use of military equipment from future purchase of military equipment,”

“This places officers in the future, potentially at risk and it’s wrong,” Barbanica said.

“Military equipment wasn’t designed for police departments it was designed for the military,” Thorpe added.

The vote passed 3-2, with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting no.

Torres-Walker then made another motion to direct the city manager to work with the chief to bring this topic back for discussion, an inventory and use of military equipment in our city and in mutual aid efforts.

“Maybe I’m confused. I too wanted to have a larger conversation around all of this,” Wilson then said.

Smith then asked if there was someone who wanted to second the motion.

Wilson then said, “yes, for the purposes of discussion.”

The motion then passed on a 3-2 vote, again with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting against.

Body Worn and Police Car Cameras, Accountability and Transparency

Barbanica started off the conversation on body worn and police car cameras saying, “They are very, very necessary. We need to get these as soon as possible, not only on the police officers but in the cars, as well.”

“I would like to expand this out and include tasers. Because they’re all one package,” he added. “Upon use of a taser, across the United States, officers are already armed with tasers. This would automatically, when a taser is activated it automatically activates the body camera.”

“It is imperative that we do this…to see firsthand what is occurring,” Barbanica continued. “Videos cannot be manipulated by officers. This is long overdue.”

Thorpe then reviewed the other components, independent review of on-duty police complaints.

All of the public comments were in support of body and dash cameras.

“What are you going to do about crime?” one member of the public asked.

Another comment was in support of Barbanica’s proposal to include tasers.

“Accountability is a big part of this…hopefully this should help the police more,” another member of the public said.

Another said he doesn’t believe the Antioch Police Department needs any more funding.

Angelo Quinto’s step-dad spoke in favor of body and dash cams to protect both the police and members of the public. One of Quinto’s aunts also spoke in favor of the cameras…but didn’t want more money provided to the police department to pay for them. Neither wanted the tasers.

Council Discussion

“I’m all for bodycameras,” said Ogorchock.

“I’m all in favor of the use of body cameras, dash cameras…public disbursement of video” Torres-Walker said. “But not necessarily tasers.”

Ogorchock then made a motion to support body cameras and vehicle cameras. Barbanica seconded it.

“And policy direction,” Torres-Walker said.

“A policy would come back, later,” Thorpe said.

The motion passed 5-0

Barbanica then asked about tasers.

“If you want to add tasers, you’re more than welcome,” Thorpe said.

“We already have tasers. It’s about swapping out tasers with Bluetooth technology that automatically triggers the cameras. This is more of a failsafe thing,” Barbanica said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about the tasers.”

“Since we already have them can’t we ask that we get updated costs if they go hand-in-hand?” Ogorchock asked. “It just makes sense.”

Barbanica then made a motion to include tasers within the study from the city manager.

Ogorchock seconded it and then asked if the Chief of Police could do that.

“I’m not an expert in this technology because we haven’t had it. But we have several staff who have come from other agencies that are experts. There is a sole source for body cameras in this county, because of the DA’s office and the way they get the videos as evidence.”

“There is a package deal for it, which does make the costs cheaper,” he continued. “The tasers we have…are older technology. They have upgraded through the years. They not only activate cameras when they’re turned on. But they have technology that downloads more data…show whether or not it was effective when deployed, whether or not there was a connection, whether or not it failed.”

“The old tasers we have are old technology and reached their end of life and are no longer serviceable,” Brooks stated.

He then said he could have a report by the next council meeting or the following.

The motion then failed on a 2-3 with Torres-Walker, Wilson and Thorpe voting no.

Establishing an Independent Review of On Duty Police Officer Complaints

Thorpe wanted to have each officer hand out a card to people they interact with, which includes the process for citizens to make a complaint.

“I understand why we want to be very transparent,” said Barbanica. “We’re coming very close here…we’re almost promoting complaints. Although it’s never admitted, if you think that every time you get out of the car you’re going to have a complaint, you’re going to have a whole lot less activity. I’m not saying that if an officer does something wrong, they shouldn’t be investigated. But when we’re promoting this

“Maybe it is also the case that you can complement an officer, as well,” Attorney Smith offered.
“Oh, yeah. Here’s how you can offer your support,” Thorpe said.

“I thought that all officers were required to provide you with their name and badge number and some kind of card upon request, already,” Torres-Walker said. “If that’s not true, that’s unfortunate. If I’m requesting that information that’s part of the customer service piece. What’s the challenge with that?”

“In this instance I think you’re right, it’s a request,” Thorpe said. “Most people don’t know you can file a complaint…of how an officer interacted with the police. Why wouldn’t we want to tell them? It’s not a secret. Not everyone knows. I thought this would be a pro-active way to let folks know.

“But a real concern, not if I pull you over for speeding or jaywalking,” he continued.

“It is a policy of APD to already give their names and badge number,” Ogorchock said.

“But it’s not the policy today to give out a card,” Thorpe said.

“I’m wondering…not every officer provides their name and badge number upon request,” Torres-Walker said. “If it is a policy…and they deny you the request then they are going against department policy. Maybe this is a  public education campaign to residents of what is your rights, what do you have the right to request. Maybe some work around with the chief to make sure our officers are not denying people their request.”

“I’d have to agree on the public education part,” Wilson said. “We need the education piece across the board.”

“I believe if we do this, we are going to have a heck of a time recruiting people,” Barbanica said. “You’re going to see complaints go through the roof. Not all of them will be valid.”

“Maybe you want to have an ad hoc…of how you can have transparency…Oakland has an app,” said Smith.

“If department policy already requires that they give this information to any citizen who requests it, what we need to know is if they’re practicing it,” Torres-Walker said.

“Hopefully soon, we will know this with bodycams,” Barbanica said.

“True,” responded Thorpe.

No motion was made on the matter

Citizens Oversight Commission

The council then discussed forming a citizens oversight commission to handle police complaints.

“An independent oversight commission, what it would look like in Antioch will be different than in other cities, like Oakland and San Francisco. Those are charter cities. Their commission can hire and fire the police chief,” Thorpe said. “Every power that an oversight would have every council has. I think there’s some things that mischaracterize…that we would be investigating police complaints.”

“We get about 20 to 40 a year,” he stated. “We’d get information that’s general in nature. We have the power as a council to investigate anything. A commission would not have that power.”

“We would have to define the authority they would have, how many people would be appointed, their role and all of that,” Torres-Walker said. “And have city staff study and bring something back.”

“We as a council…could review police complaints,” Thorpe stated.

“The current system that we have, we have that ability, now,” Barbanica said. “We can do that with any city department.”

“Yes,” Thorpe responded.

“The chief is very proactive with this, now,” Barbanica continued. “You can see on the website. He’s using outside investigators. The system the way it is, right now, especially the software that the city is using and when we have body cams, it appears it is working.”

“What I’m talking about is a police oversight commission,” Thorpe said. “We don’t get into the specifics because that’s not our role.”

“What we heard out of the Bridging the Gap is in support of this,” Wilson said.

“Or it could be a function of the city council, we will do it that way, for now,” Thorpe responded.

“I think the whole point of a civilian oversight commission is to increase transparency for the community. I don’t think the city council doing it does that,” Torres-Walker said.

“I think these are all for our police of chief, that’s what he was hired for and the city manger oversees him,” Ogorchock said. “I think we are getting into union issues. We aren’t doing this in any other department. It’s kind of saying the police department is doing something wrong. I don’t think they are. None of us have experience other than Councilman Barbanica. What expertise do we have?”

“We don’t do this for a doctor who has a malpractice going on,” she continued. “I think we’re starting to overstep our bounds.”

“You clearly weren’t listening to the conversation. No one ever talked about investigating a police officer,” Thorpe said. “If I want to, as the mayor, ask the chief to bring all the complaints that have happened in this quarter…every city council has the ability to hear that. This is about information that already exists, making it transparent that anyone can see.”

Public Comments

“The police should not police themselves” was one comment, that in general was supported by others.

“I think transparency and accountability should apply to council members,” another member of the public said.

“There needs to be more public accountability,” another said. “Not just an independent council.”

“If the mayor chooses the people, how can that be independent?” Sal Sbranti asked. “Just like Mayor Thorpe doesn’t want me on any of his committees, I don’t want him as mayor. Do you have any specific facts showing an officer did anything wrong?”

“Citizens don’t have the experience…the use of force must be judged by another officer,” Jesse Zuniga said.

Others asked for an independent review of citizen complaints.

“I’m not supportive of this action, at this time, until CNA has concluded their report,” said Gil Murillo, referring to the

Thorpe then asked Chief Brooks to explain the current complaint process.

“The process begins with someone filing a complaint,” Brooks said. “There are forms…in the lobby. Complaints can be filed online. So, you can do it from your phone or your computer. Those complaints go directly to me. Or people can do it by calling. Depending on the nature of the complaint…they are either routed to Internal Affairs, or lower-level complaints are handled in house,” and some “by an outside investigation.”

He said the four results of complaints are either “sustained, not sustained, exhonerated, unfounded or no finding.”

“If the complaint is sustained, then the officer is disciplined and it goes in their file for a period of time. Some aren’t purged and some are purged after five years,” Brooks continued. “Every complaint that comes in is investigated for its validity.”

“When did we start using independent investigators?” Thorpe asked.

“Three or four months ago,” Brooks responded.

“I’m satisfied with what Chief Brooks is doing,” Barbanica said. “The fact that he’s hiring independent investigators that have nothing to do with the Antioch Police Department, including attorneys, I’m satisfied with what the chief is doing.”

“Again, overwhelmingly, we’ve heard the public say they want this,” Wilson said. “They don’t say they don’t like the police. They just want transparency. So, I would be for this.”

“Is it for the establishment of a civilian police oversight body to review and investigate police complaints?” Torres-Walker said.

“That’s how I would interpret it, yeah,” Wilson responded.

“That’s how I would, too,” Torres-Walker said.

“It could take multiple forms,” Thorpe said. “I just had it as two separate things. If we’re talking about independent investigations that could still be housed within the police department or go all the way to what you guys said. It’s fluid.”

“It’s clear community input is wanted, I don’t think anyone would dispute that,” he continued. “To what level has to be determined. I’m not convinced an oversight committee, because we are a general law city, they would not have the authority to do investigations.”

“The commission could get status updates,” Smith stated. “One of the strengths is people don’t feel comfortable filing a complaint with the police department. They could hear from the chief. They could hear stories and then those stories could turn into complaints.”

“That’s what I’m looking for,” Wilson said.

“We could not have an office of investigations…and don’t want you to think the commission could have that kind of power,” Thorpe said.

“Right now, we have one officer dedicated to internal affairs?” Thorpe asked Brooks.

“Correct. We currently have one sergeant in charge of the internal affairs bureau,” Brooks responded.

“I’ve heard this ‘overwhelmingly’ but we have outside people making comments,” Ogorchock said. “We have a Police Crime Commission…some of those things could go back to the commission. They can go over these items. That’s what they’re hired to do. We have a Police Crime Commission..we could have them handle this.”

“The Crime Prevention Commission, as written in the resolution is to come back with proposals on crime prevention,” Thorpe said.

Torres-Walker then made a motion to have the city council receive and review complaints…and direct the city manager and city attorney to look into establishing an independent citizen commission to review complaints of police officer use of force.

City Attorney Smith then asked her to split her motion into two.

“I haven’t seen any language about investigations only review,” Torres-Walker said. “The police department is that has lacked overview and oversight is why we are where we are at today and we wouldn’t have outside influences coming in.”

She then made a motion to have the council to operate as a police oversight committee, to review police policies and to audit any and all police complaints of use of force.

“Did you want to do that as a whole city council?” Smith asked.

“Yes, the whole council,” Torres-Walker said

Wilson seconded the motion and it passed on a 3-2 vote with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting no.

“I think if I was to work with the city manager, between the two of us, we could come forward with models, examples,” Smith said.

Torres-Walker then made a motion to have the city attorney’s office look into models for citizen police oversight commissions and bring it back for a vote.

Wilson seconded the motion.

“What about the chief of police?” Ogorchock asked Smith.

“City council doesn’t direct the chief of police, the city manager does,” Smith said.

“The chief of police has the expertise, not you,” Ogorchock said.

“Hold on. The word expertise came from me,” Thorpe said.

The motion then passed on a 3-2 vote with Barbanica and Ogorchock voting no.

“If we establish anything they will not have investigatory power,” Thorpe reiterated. “People look confused.”

“I guess we’re all confused because the chief has said, obviously the complaints aren’t independently investigated,” Torres-Walker said. “Because they have to determine what triggers an investigation…an outside versus an internal investigation.”

“At this point, we’ve just begun using outside investigators. Anything that has to do with bias-based policing or excessive  use of force, those are things that trigger the use of an outside investigator,” Chief Brooks explained.

“It’s not a formal process, it’s through the discretion by internal affairs,” Thorpe said.

“I’m happy with what Chief Brooks has implemented and am glad he’s gone to hiring outside investigators,” Barbanica said. “He’s taken it upon himself.”

“Actually, we don’t know if it’s working or not. The chief just said he’s implemented months ago,” Torres-Walker said. “Maybe there’s no data that the current system is working that was just put in place. Maybe we should hold off and see if the system is working.”

“How many investigations have been referred to outside investigators, Chief?” Barbanica asked.

“If I’d have to guess I’d say three or four at this point,” Brooks responded.

“I’m hearing we’re satisfied with the way things are,”

“Is it actually a policy?” Torres-Walker asked.

“No. It’s just that the chief has gone out of his way,” Thorpe responded.

“Could the chief work with the city manager to work on that policy?” Torres-Walker asked.

“If you want to turn the chief’s discretion into a policy,” Thorpe said.

“Why don’t we take what the chief has started and create that policy?” Wilson asked.

She then made a motion to require the chief to work with the city manager develop a policy that creates independent investigations.

Wilson seconded the motion and it passed on a 4-1 vote, with Ogorchock voted no.

Police Hiring & Screening Process

“I don’t want us hiring people who are being investigated for excessive force or have a sustained use of force” Barbanica said. “With that the bias part of it is going to be very difficult.”

“In regards to the implicit bias, there has to be some model out there,” Wilson said. “To see if it’s working. Can we at least see what is out there?”

“You’re trying to impose hiring practices. APD gets rid of bad police officers, unlike we do with certain council members,” Sal Sbranti said.

Barbanica then made a motion that the city doesn’t hire officers who are under investigation for use of force, or sustained use of force.

Ogorchock seconded the motion.

Householder then clarified the motion that it was to direct staff to develop a policy and it passed on a 5-0 vote.

Wilson then made a motion to direct the city manager to bring back a staff report on a model for implicit bias test for police officers.

Torres-Walker seconded it.

The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

Hiring the Chief of Police

“What is the process, here,” Torres-Walker asked.

“The process, here is the city manager hires the chief of police and sets the salary schedule,” Thorpe responded.

Torres-Walker then moved that the city manager establish a chief of police hiring practice that is open and transparent and inclusive of the community and bring it back to the council for a vote.

“I kind of feel awkward, Ron has a job to do,” Torres-Walker said.

“That the process also comes with a salary schedule,” she added to her motion.

Wilson seconded the motion.

“We hired Ron the same way Ron hired T,” Ogorchock said.

“The chief of police has an established salary, but it’s not a range,” Bernal said.

“We just want to make sure it’s fair like everywhere else,” Thorpe said.

The motion then passed on a 5-0 vote.

Notification Protocols of Major Events

“Right now, we have a practice of the chief notifying council. This is to formalize that practice and of course include the city attorney in that process,” Thorpe said. “The chief sends out a text. Some of us follow up with the chief the next day for more details.”

“I have a question on the time of notification…I didn’t hear about the incident with Angelo and his family and the department until a month later,” Torres-Walker said. “Is there a policy on timing?”

“That is what the city manager will work with the chief and come back with,” Thorpe responded.

One public comment signed by several people supported the effort.

Another wanted to define a major incident.

“I feel like the lack of information is self-serving. We should know the next time a police officer just killed someone. They need some downtime. They don’t need to be on the street,” said another one.

Frank Sterling wanted to have the public also informed.

“All California residents have a stake in this,” said another.

“It should not include a social media post that does not include the word ‘alleged’ and the name of those in custody,” said Lacey Brown, but the name provided to the city clerk was Shagoofa Khan.

“The issue here is notification to us about major incidents,” Thorpe said. “We could add the public. I think that’s a good start for now.”

Wilson then made a motion to establish a notification system that clearly lays out what and when the mayor, council, city manager, city attorney and community is informed about major incidents.

Barbanica seconded it.

“Doesn’t it go through the PIO, isn’t that what he’s paid to do?” asked Ogorchock.

Thorpe responded that this is in addition to anything the PIO does.

The motion then passed 5-0.

Require Selection of Attorneys Be Provide

This is exactly as the title reads. What I’m seeking here is consistency and clarity around hiring of attorneys,” City Attorney Smith said. “Mayor Thorpe and I have discussed this. He is familiar with this as equally as I am.”

Public Comments

“This resolution gives way too much power to the city attorney,” Sal Sbranti said, “Our city attorney is one of the people who was on the Oakland Police Commission. That city has had 11 police chiefs in 21 years.”

“What is the current policy, how does it work?” Barbanica asked.

“In the last instance I think it was the chief and the city attorney,” Thorpe said. “As he said, it’s a practice. If we are going to talk about independent investigations, I wanted the practice to reflect that.”

“Would it be possible to include the department head in that process?” Barbanica asked.

“I don’t think the city attorney picks the attorneys,” Thorpe responded.

“I actually do, for most of the departments” Smith responded. “When we have specialized work, I find an attorney who specializes in that work. I’m copied on all the emails that go back and forth between the department head and attorney.”

“We have seen practices in the past where we have seen generalist try to do special work and that didn’t work out,” Smith said. “In the upcoming budget process, I’ll be asking for a deputy attorney.”

“Would you be opposed to having the department head included in the decision,” Barbanica asked.

“As the chief legal counsel for the city, I am the final decision maker on legal matters,” Smith responded.

“So, the department head would have a voice,” Barbanica said.

“Consultation with the department head…at the end of the day somebody has to make a decision,” Smith stated.

“I think on the last one, the chief of police brought forward some names, and it was the chief and city attorney decided,” Ogorchock said. “I would like to see it be a collaboration.”

“Collaboration, yes but like I said someone has to make the decision,” Smith said.

“I heard the city attorney say several times it’s the job we hire the city attorney to do,” Torres-Walker said. “We are mismanaging the resources of our city. He has to work in collaboration with the city attorney. We have to give him the power and authority to do his job.”

“I appreciate that, Councilwoman Torres-Walker,” Smith said.

She then made a motion to require all outside attorneys be selected by the city attorney. But she did not include the words “in consultation” in her motion, as Barbanica had requested. Wilson seconded it and the motion passed on a 3-2 motion.

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Torres-Walker announces support for Antioch police reforms before Friday night’s special council meeting

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Claims “police brutality” and “excessive use of force” in the APD as reasons

By Allen Payton

In a press release Thursday evening, Antioch District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker announced her support for police reforms ahead of the special council meeting to discuss them and before first hearing from the public on the specific reforms on the agenda, Friday night, Feb. 26. She cited the recent deaths of two men following interactions with Antioch Police officers, in late December and early Wednesday morning. That’s in spite of the fact no information has been released by the APD about the first, in which Angelo Quinto died three days after his interaction with police, and it’s not clear that he was still in police custody at the time, and the investigations into both have yet to be completed.

She also claims her reasons for support of the reforms are the need “to undo the practices and culture that allow for police brutality,” and “conditions at the department that have led to a culture of excessive use of force” but without providing any data to back up her accusations. Torres-Walker also writes about the protests this past year and that “many have been assaulted, harassed and have had their lives threatened,” without being clear that she’s referring to protesters or Antioch residents in general, nor if those things were done by Antioch police officers.

In addition, Torres-Walker claims that the citizen input provided during the Bridging the Gap discussions was inadequate because it didn’t include enough members of the public, even though she was one of the council members who voted to hold the three forums and approved the format during their meeting on Dec. 15. The format limited the total number of participants to just 75 Antioch residents or business owners per discussion. Lastly, she claims “the public has been given insufficient time to voice their concerns” during the forums.

Nevertheless, Torres-Walker and Mayor Lamar Thorpe (who proposed his reforms during a press conference on Monday – to which she was specifically not invited – and also called the special meeting) want to move forward with his proposals both before the report on the Bridging the Gap discussions from the paid consultants has been completed, and only after input is given during public comments Friday night.

Following is Torres-Walker’s press release posted on her council campaign Facebook page and on her campaign website:

“Antioch (is) in need of significant and immediate police reform with true community oversight. Over the past month, we have lost two lives while in custody of our police department.

My heart and prayers goes to the impacted families of our recent tragedies, and I ask our community to demonstrate peace and solidarity for one another. The recent tragedies and loss of life in our community are unacceptable.

I want you to know that I feel the pain our community feels right now, and I too am in many emotions. With that in mind, I also aim to lead with compassion and ensure that justice and change are coming.

Life is precious and we matter in Antioch.

As the newly elected city councilmember for the Antioch City Council, I will wield this position to hold the council accountable.

Working with law enforcement agencies across Contra Costa, I know first-hand how difficult but necessary it is to undo the practices and culture that allow for police brutality.

Residents have been calling for change and true community oversight of the police department for years. However, at a meeting in 2017, the City Council informally decided to not purchase body cameras for police officers and stated that the priority was to hire more police officers for patrol.

At the time, outfitting 105 officers with cameras would cost roughly $107,000.

Chief Brooks’ total pay and benefits in 2017 totaled $430,928.10. A police officer’s salary in Antioch at the time with regular pay would be between $100,000 and $127,000, with most being around $113,000 (including total pay and benefits, this amounts to $250,000 for one officer).

Four years later, there are still no body cameras on officers.

There is no integration between mental health services and crisis management.

There is no citizens’ oversight committee.

The entire past year, Antioch community members have been protesting against Antioch’s police department’s excessive use of force.

Many have been assaulted, harassed and have had their lives threatened.

Our Bridging the Gap discussions, meant to foster public participation, are severely limited by the attendance cap and the public has been given insufficient time to voice their concerns. As a community organizer, this is unacceptable in terms of public participation and inclusion.

We need change to the police department as well as a true citizens’ oversight committee.

I know in my years of transforming law enforcement, it is not easy. It does begin with accountability. I want residents to know that you have my commitment to uncovering and remedying the conditions at the department that have led to a culture of excessive use of force, where our own community members’ lives have been lost and many others have been harmed.

Residents of Antioch deserve this change and deserve it now.”

The special Antioch City Council meeting will be held at 5:00 p.m. and can be viewed via livestream on the city’s website at https://www.antiochca.gov/live_stream, on Comcast Channel 24, or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.

To make a public comment:

  1. Fill out an online speaker card by 3:00 p.m. Friday at: https://www.antiochca.gov/speaker_card.
  2. Provide oral public comments during the meeting by clicking the following link to register in advance to access the meeting via Zoom Webinar: https://www.antiochca.gov/speakers

 

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Antioch Council to discuss police reforms during special meeting Friday at 5 pm

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Plus, a requirement that all outside attorneys by selected by City Attorney for all departments; the 7th meeting held by the city council this month, including Bridging the Gap discussion

By Allen Payton

The Antioch City Council will hold a special meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Friday to discuss Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s proposed police reforms, which include body worn and vehicle cameras, for which the majority of council members have publicly expressed support.

In addition, the council will consider adopting a resolution that requires all outside attorneys hired by city department be selected by City Attorney Thomas Smith.

Questions were sent to both Thorpe and the city’s Public Information Officer, Rolando Bonilla, asking why the meeting is being held at 5:00 p.m., before those who work out of town are home to give their input to the council members. They were also asked why the outside attorney matter, is on the agenda. Have there been that many outside attorneys hired by the various departments? And if so, how many? Is it a cost issue? Or is this targeted at the police department for their outside investigations and is part of the police reform agenda?

Finally, Thorpe was asked if Antioch Police Chief T Brooks will provide a presentation on what his department is doing on each proposed reform before the council hears public comments and discusses them. As of publication time, he had not responded.

Asked if his department chooses their own, outside attorneys for independent investigations and other work Brooks responded, “Yes, we currently are able to choose our own attorneys.”

Following are the police reforms that the council will discuss, receive public comments, and provide direction to staff:

  1. MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS RESPONSE
  2. OFFICER TRAINING ENHANCEMENTS / MODULES
  3. DEMILITARIZATION EFFORTS
  4. INCREASED ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY, INCLUDING BODY WORN AND IN VEHICLE CAMERAS
  5. ESTABLISHING INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF ON DUTY POLICE OFFICER COMPLAINTS
  6. POLICE HIRING AND SCREENING PRACTICES
  7. NOTIFICATION PROTOCOLS FOR MAJOR INCIDENTS

and

  1. RESOLUTION IMPLEMENTING A POLICY FOR THE CITY, INCLUDING ALL OF ITS DEPARTMENTS, REGARDING THE SELECTION OF ATTORNEYS PROVIDING CONTRACT SERVICES, AND THE REVIEW, AUTHORIZATION AND EXECUTION OF ALL AGREEMENTS FOR LEGAL SERVICES AND SERVICES TO BE PROVIDED BY ATTORNEYS TO THE CITY

The meeting can be viewed via livestream on the city’s website at https://www.antiochca.gov/live_stream, on Comcast Channel 24, or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.

To make a public comment:

  1. Fill out an online speaker card by 3:00 p.m. Friday at: https://www.antiochca.gov/speaker_card.
  2. Provide oral public comments during the meeting by clicking the following link to register in advance to access the meeting via Zoom Webinar: https://www.antiochca.gov/speakers
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Payton Perspective: Antioch Council must show need for police reforms and also offer proposals to fight, reduce crime

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Friday night special council meeting premature; Mayor Thorpe’s and council’s reforms should be “based on findings” and wait for Bridging the Gap report

APD needs to improve communication with council, public

Make new aspirational goal to be “The safest city in California with over 100,000 population”

For the past year, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe has been pushing for police reforms in our city. Last year he announced his support for those from the 8 Can’t Wait nationwide campaign, and five of his own. Thorpe’s latest list of six reforms may sound good, and while I support or don’t have a problem with some of them, he’s yet to provide any data to support the need for most of them in Antioch. Also, at the same time, neither Thorpe nor any of the council members have offered any proposals to increase and improve the city’s ability to fight and reduce crime.

Following are the 8 Can’t Wait policy recommendations Thorpe said, last year, he wanted implemented:

  1. Ban police use of chokeholds and strangleholds, including the carotid restraint (now, state law)
  2. Require officers to de-escalate situations whenever possible
  3. Require officers to exhaust all options before shooting, including less lethal force
  4. Ban officers from shooting at moving vehicles
  5. Establish a use of force continuum that restricts using the most severe force to most extreme situations
  6. Require comprehensive reporting for each time an officer fires or points their weapon at someone
  7. Require verbal warnings before using deadly force (already an Antioch policy)
  8. Require officers to intervene to stop excessive force by other officers (already an Antioch policy)

Thorpe also proposed his own five reforms, at that time: Demilitarize our local police; Increase police accountability; Improve police hiring practices; Excessive use of force and Budget appropriations.

Additionally, Thorpe said he had signed the Obama.org’s “My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Pledge”, to make Antioch an “MBK Community” which asks local officials to:

  1. Review the police use of force policies in my community
  2. Engage my community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in our review
  3. Report the findings of our review to my community and seek feedback within 90 days of signing this pledge
  4. Reform my community’s police use of force policies based on findings

When asked for his thoughts on Thorpe’s proposed reforms at that time, Antioch Police Chief T Brooks responded, “I look forward to hearing the discussion…on this proposal.  I am especially interested in what specific reforms they believe are necessary at the Antioch Police Department.”

In addition, Brooks responded the next day informing the public that five of the 8 Can’t Wait reforms had been or were already being implemented by his department, and why he doesn’t recommend implementing all of them. Those not being implemented or which the chief doesn’t recommend are numbers 3, 4 and 5 and he explained why.

More and Latest Reforms

As presented during his press conference on Monday, Thorpe is now offering six areas of reform including Mental Health, Training, Demilitarizing, Accountability & Transparency, Hiring, and Communication. The added reform, in the area of mental health, would include forming a crisis team to accompany police officers on mental health distress calls and require annual mental health assessments of police officers and dispatch workers. His proposed training reforms includes “implicit bias training” which is based on the assumption that our police officers interact with different people differently based on their skin color, ethnicity or other characteristics.

The reform of communications with city officials stems from Thorpe’s claim that the APD did not inform him or the other council members about the death of an Antioch resident, Angelo Quinto in late December following an interaction with police, and that he had to learn about it on social media the first week of January. However, at Wednesday’s press conference, Chief Brooks, who said he was on vacation at the time, stated someone in his department had contacted the mayor about the man’s death, at that time. A request for documentation to support that claim has been requested.

Thorpe also provided more details about the six reforms he is now asking the city council to consider.

Requests for Data

Asked on Monday, other than the large vehicle the APD has that’s mainly used during parades, how has the department become militarized and when was the last time the APD purchased, Thorpe did not respond. That and the question, when was the last time the department purchased or received any military equipment were posed to Chief Brooks. He too did not respond.

The chief was also asked how many citizen complaints the department has received over the past year, three years and five years and how they were addressed. While Brooks has yet to respond, those are the questions the council members need to ask before making any decisions.

Decisions Must Be Based on Findings

Thorpe’s proposed reforms and comments during the press conferences appear to assume Antioch Police officers are violating people’s rights and not following best practices nor use of force policies. Yet, if he wants to make Antioch an MBK city, then Thorpe should follow the pledge he’s signed and make sure his comments and decisions are “based on findings” and that he and the council have first reviewed the “police use of force policies in my community”. Those should be part of any agenda item on that proposed reforms.

During his press conference on Monday, Thorpe said he wants the council to “review and audit all police complaints,” and “proactively review our use of force policies.” Again, that should be done before voting on any reforms.

Other than approving body cameras and police car dash cams, for which a majority of council members have publicly expressed support and are long overdue – since they protect both public, as well as police officers from false accusations – as well as improved communications by the department, the mayor and council need to slow down on the rest of the proposed reforms and base their decisions on actual data of what’s happening in our city.

Special Council Meeting Premature

In a reaction to the in-custody death, early Wednesday morning, of a man who, based on the police report, was high on drugs at the time of his interaction with police, Thorpe has now called for a special council meeting, tomorrow night at 5 p.m. to begin discussions on his proposed reforms.

Yet, the report from the three Bridging the Gap forums, in which hundreds of Antioch residents and business owners participated, is not yet completed and released by the paid consultants hired to facilitate the process.

So, while Thorpe’s pledge to “Engage my community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in our review” may have been met, he’s now going to ignore that input and wants the council to do the same when deciding on his reforms.

Hear from Chief Brooks & Get Data, First

Most importantly, Thorpe’s proposed reforms aren’t based on proof of need. For the past year we’ve been hearing the phrase “follow the science” regarding government officials’ responses to COVID-19. Yet, where is the scientific evidence to support the need for any of the reforms he’s proposing? The council should make data-driven decisions. Not base them on what is happening in other cities across the country, what sounds good, or after being caught up emotionally or politically in some national movement.

If they want to consider any of the reforms the council must first hear from Chief Brooks – our city’s leading expert on police services and fighting crime – about what is already happening within the department and direct staff to provide the data and evidence to support any and all of the proposed reforms.

Yes to Police Cameras, Mental Health Support

I definitely support body and dash cams and those should be approved immediately. I also don’t have a problem with including mental health professionals on calls for service involving crisis interventions. If that’s working elsewhere to reduce the need for police interaction with some individuals and the need for jail time, when what will be more appropriate and effective is either medicine or to be in a substance abuse counseling program, then let’s consider it – again, based on the need from the data. I also support improved communications by the police department.

Better APD Communications

At the same time, Chief Brooks and the APD need to do a better job communicating with and informing the public, especially in matters involving a death following an interaction with police. While he was on vacation at the time of Quinto’s death in December, that shouldn’t have prevented Brook’s second-in-command from issuing a press release and informing the public that it had occurred following an interaction with Antioch officers. Police agencies issue press releases about such an incident even while their investigation continues, all the time. We shouldn’t have to wait months to hear from APD, such as with the Angelo Quinto incident and death, the arrest for arson by Antioch resident and protest leader Shagoofa Khan, and the incident involving Councilwoman Torres-Walker’s sons, which is being investigated by an outside agency as she demanded.

In fact, until that investigation is completed, Torres-Walker needs to recuse herself from voting on any police reforms, to avoid making a biased decision.

Focus on Crime Reduction, Criminal Reform

Most importantly, where are the mayor’s or other council members’ proposals to increase public safety and improve the Antioch Police Department’s ability to fight and reduce crime in our city? That was the focus of both Measures C and W, in which we the people voted twice to tax ourselves in order to increase the number of sworn police officers on the force and still should be.

While the good news is most Part-I crimes have been reduced in Antioch over the past several years, we have a long way to go to ensuring our city is safe for all of our residents and in all parts of town.

The council needs to be asking what decisions they can make and policies they can approve to help the APD hire more police officers and sooner to get us to at least 126 sworn police officers, to achieve the long-desired goal of 1.2 officers per 1,000 population.

What we also haven’t heard from the mayor or any council members is how can we have criminal reform. What programs are they proposing to deter people from committing crime, to reduce gang violence, to reduce recidivism of formerly incarcerated individuals, etc.? Torres-Walker runs a non-profit that works with ex-cons to help them find jobs, mainstream them back into society and help reduce recidivism, which is laudable. Surely, in her interactions with her clients, she’s learned from them what can be done in that area. Where are her proposals on that? What happened to Operation Ceasefire which she’s previously mentioned, for example? Is that still being implemented in Antioch?

New Aspirational Goal, Don’t Make Things More Difficult for Police

Perhaps some of the police reforms are needed. But until they have the data and demonstrate to the public the need for them is proven, our elected leaders must get back to focusing on reducing crime, rather than on efforts to reform what may not need reforming. While those efforts do get headlines and attention from regional media, I’d love to instead, someday write a headline that reads “Antioch rated safest city of over 100,000 population in California”. Let that be our city leaders’ goal and have them work and focus on that. In fact, it should be on the top of the list of their new aspirational goals. The police are already hamstrung by the voter-approved state Prop. 47 which reduce the penalty for stealing up to $950 of merchandise to a misdemeanor, and by a soft-on-crime District Attorney and a COVID-19 situation that has resulted in the release of criminals back into our community. Let’s not make things more difficult for the Antioch Police Department to fight crime and improve public safety in our community.

Allen Payton is the Publisher and Editor of the Antioch Herald, AntiochHerald.com and ContraCostaHerald.com. He is a former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman. During his term on the city council 19 sworn officers were added to the police force and crime was reduced citywide by 40%, and in the city’s highest crime area by 80%. He’s been a newspaper publisher in Antioch for over 15 of the past 19 years.

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Antioch Council majority moves forward on bridge housing for homeless using motel, still no details on funds approved in 2019

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Figures add up to greater than 100%. Graphic from City of Antioch Update on Unhoused Strategies.

3 support 2 oppose before total costs are known; council will also consider Barbanica’s use of Pittsburg motel for Antioch homeless residents; motel not yet selected, only one responded to City’s RFP last year; another RFP will be sent out seeking program operator

Council wants to postpone sewer rate increases due to COVID-19, will decide during public hearing on June 8th

By Allen Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night, Feb. 23, the Antioch City Council split 3-2 on giving direction to city staff to develop a request for proposal on establishing a bridge housing program using a local motel. Councilmembers Mike Barbanica (District 2) and Ogorchock (District 3) opposed the effort. Barbanica instead wants the city to coordinate with the county in securing rooms at the former Motel 6 in Pittsburg to be used for homeless Antioch residents. Ogorchock was concerned about both the “astronomical costs” of the proposed program that will increase each year, and the lack of a total budget.

The council was not provided the total costs for the program because the proposal presented did not include the lease of a motel. Only one motel responded to the request for proposal (RFP) sent out by the city asking if any were interested, last year. Discussions with the owner were ended until the council made the decision to move forward with the bridge housing program and to determine what kind of program would be offered there.

Now, another request for proposal will be sent out seeking an organization that wants to operate the program and will provide what the real and total cost figures will be.

The result is the city still has yet to spend most of the funds from the $517,000 the council approved in November 2019 to help the homeless. Mayor Lamar Thorpe pointed that out and wanted to remind Jazmin Ridley, the city’s unhoused resident coordinator, that he wanted her to implement a motel voucher program amid other ideas, such as providing showers, using the remaining funds. However, Barbanica, said that City Manager Ron Bernal told him only $140,000 of those funds are remaining. Yet, in the city staff report no information was provided to the council of how much of those funds has been spent and on what. A request for a list of expenditures from those funds has been requested from Bernal.

Unhoused Strategies Report

The city’s new Unhoused Resident Coordinator, Jazmin Ridley presented the staff report on the Unhoused Strategies for the city. She shared the statistics on homeless residents in Antioch, that 75% are from within the county, including half from Antioch.

City of Antioch Goals on Homelessness

Ridley also shared about “the goals that we can meet” including:

  • Decriminalize homelessness and develop strategic encampment resolution policies focused on linking unhoused people to shelter, housing and services.
  • Invest in temporary housing and shelter that provides a pathway to housing.
  • Participate and leverage the Contra Costa County homelessness response system (H3 – Health Housing & Homeless Services)
  • Build partnerships with community partners and community-based efforts that complement City-funded and regional strategies
  • Engage in data-informed planning and investments

The program would include 30 beds to serve the estimated 238 homeless residents in Antioch, with stays of up to four months.

Program Options

Ridley also shared a list of options to assist homeless residents, which include: Homelessness Prevention Services; Street Outreach Services (CORE – the county’s Coordinated Outreach, Referral and Engagement team); Safe Parking Sites; Sanctioned/Safe Sleep Encampments; Housing Problem Solving Services; Motel Vouchers; Tiny Homes; Rapid Re-Housing Rental Assistance; Permanent Housing Vouchers and Motel Temporary Housing Program, which is the bridge housing approach the council directed staff to pursue.

Estimated Program Services Budgets (Without Motel Lease)

In the proposed annual Services Budgets for the three options for a bridge housing program, most of the money would be used to pay staff salaries and benefits of about $310,300 to $506,219 out of the total estimated $450,000 to $858,000. The remainder would be spent on operations. Only $18,000 to $45,000 would be spent on financial assistance for those in the program. Services Budgets for 3 Bridge Housing Program Options

Public Comments

“The amount of money that the city could potentially spend is outrageous,” wrote George Medeiros. “This way of thinking is why residents are wanting to move out of Antioch. This is not what I call Opportunity Lives Here.”

Michelle Lujan wrote that she supports the bridge housing program.

Nichole Gardner wrote about the help she and her team provided to one woman to stay in a motel, recently.

“This type of project could help so many people,” she said. “Because they too are seniors, are Black and brown and endure injustices by our police department, they too are veterans. It is up to you to be bold enough to do it.”

Lucille Meinhardt wrote, “I support any effort to help those on the streets.”

Joy Motts wrote in support of the effort.

“You have the choice before you tonight to do something about it,” she wrote. “You may say it’s too expensive. But the City of Antioch spent over $1 million moving homeless encampments, last year.”

Mina Guevara spoke on behalf of her father, George offering prepared remarks. (NOTE: Not all of the remarks fit within the three-minute limit. They are provided in their entirety below.)

“He asked me to speak on his behalf,” she said. “As life-long residents of Antioch, we are concerned with how the City of Antioch has dealt with the unhoused population.

Even listening to the speakers tonight, it is painfully frustrating. I respect the work that the consultants and Ms. Jazmin have mentioned. But this is not a new problem. The roots of this problem are not new.  Yet, we are spending thousands of dollars on programs that have yet to culminate in anything besides adding more jobs to people in the city and our unhoused neighbors being overlooked and unwanted.

Today, we know the root of most homelessness – mental health needs, addiction, domestic violence, and often people who work jobs but do not earn enough to live in this increasingly expensive community.  We know what people need. Why can’t we just stop “researching” and “proposing” and start providing?

My family runs a 501(C)3 dedicated to providing food to those in need. We work closely with the homeless in Antioch and East Contra Costa.   As in, often six days a week we are visiting with the unhoused, using the act of breaking bread to build relationships and help find solutions and avenues for supporting these community members who need help.

The thing is, in the last nine months, as we feed people and connect daily – we have yet to see anyone from the City reaching out to help.  Excuse me – I do want to give Councilwoman Orgorchalk credits as she has met with many unhoused neighbors with us many times and has worked to provide the help that we or the individuals were not able to obtain.   For example, one unhoused member had been desperate calling for medical aid from CORE for months.  It wasn’t until Councilwoman Ogorchalk made persistent calls and she get CORE to visit this man and provide him the medical aid he needed.

The unhoused are just as frustrated by the City of Antioch as we are.

How the city is spending our tax dollars is concerning.  As someone who works compassionately and tirelessly with the homeless, I am concerned that thousands of dollars are available, but not available for the people who can benefit most.

I have asked city leadership and staff about where the money for the FEMA trailers has gone. I have asked about the job position of a homeless advisor.   Porta-potties were given and then taken away – the same with water stations.  CORE is inconsistent and offers a band-aid for a solution.  And when I say band-aid, I literally mean band-aids.  And now there is a new program on the agenda – but what faith should we have in you as city leadership to do what you saying you are going to do.  The track record is not great.

Even listening to Mr. Curt, the amount of debris from homeless encampments is frustrating to listen to.  He does acknowledge it is a complicated problem.  But, just as recently as December, a camp was razed and there is more debris now than there was when people lived there.  The dumping problem is easy to blame on the unhoused, but – I’ve seen people come in a make major debris dumps in the camp.  I’ve seen stolen cars stripped.  It’s easy to blame the unhoused – but that is a resident issue – irresponsible residents not wanting to pay for legal dumping.

Ms. Ridley even just stated that data leads to the solution.  So, what I get from that is that thousands of dollars have been invested into this problem and there have been no solutions. And solutions will be layers. But what data can you show me that supports the actions that have been taken in correlation to the money that has been provided for the city.  Transparency to showcase data-led solutions would be welcomed by the community.

It seems like there are problems. We all see them.  We see there is money to be provided for the issues around the unhoused.  But all we see is money being used in non-transparent ways and the problem being pushed from one side of the city to another.

I question how this new program is going to benefit the actual unhoused population in Antioch?  How this money is being spent should be clearly communicated to the public.  How can we trust that you are going to do what you say you are going to do?”

“Antioch residents, housed and unhoused, deserve better leadership and better solutions than this,” Guevara concluded.

Council Discussion & Decision

“We need wrap-around services there…to get to some type of permanent housing,” Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson said.

“If you’ll look at the back of the services budget, you’ll see you will have a couple case manager and a couple service managers,” said Kate Bristol of Focus Strategies, the city’s consultant on homeless issues. “The county has a robust variety of services but they’re hard to access. You’re going to have a whole array of different pathways for people to get out back into housing. There’s no one-size fits all.”

“The service providers might be on sight all the time or during the week,” Wilson said.

“The case managers will be there during regular hours,” Bristol said. “But you will want to have someone there all the time. The intensive services will be there during regular working hours.”

Torres-Walker “I get the frustration from the last speaker and it definitely felt heartfelt and my heart is open. As someone who spent their young adult years homeless and sleeping in parks…then moving on to home ownership I can understand how difficult it is to get all the streets.”

“Tonight, we’re not voting on a hotel or a hotel for trailers but a budget and recommendation for services,” she said.

“No. What we will do is be asking staff to put out an RFP (request for proposal)…and giving staff direction to look for great opportunities, like the state’s Homekey program,” Thorpe responded. “We would be asking for the bridge housing request for proposals. We’ve already done the request for proposals for the hotel. We received one. But the negotiations stopped because we didn’t know what kind of services we’ll be providing.”

“I just want to be clear about that,” Torres-Walker continued. “I did talk to Mr. Bernal about the whole motel model and it’s my understanding that’s on hold for several months. Because the Executive Inn is in my district and right up the street from my home. Living here, as well has not been a walk in the park and there’s a lot of work in the community around this motel…that raise a lot of concerns for me.”

She asked that the council “consider as we are spending time to get this set up that we spend time and resources in making the community safe.”

“All of the hotels are in District 1,” Ogorchock said. “So, if this program goes forward it will be in District 1.”

“Do you have the costs for the lease on the motel because it’s not in here,” she said.

“We’re talking about the bridge housing concept,” Thorpe said.

“But that would be part of the cost,” Ogorchock said. “So, even if you’re looking at the bridge housing and motel setting those aren’t the total costs.”

“The final costs will come once we have a service provider,” Thorpe said. “We will send out an RFP and agencies will respond to it and give us the final numbers. We’re not budgeting anything…because there has been no proposal that has the services and hotel.”

Ogorchock pressed again about the total costs.

“These aren’t real numbers. These are rough numbers that Kate Bristol and her agency put together to say this is what they could look like,” Thorpe responded. “We will be able to show what the costs will be once the request for proposal comes back. These are just concepts.”

“What model of best practices have you seen on this kind of project?” Ogorchock asked.

“On bridge housing…is it still the best practice over a community shelter?” Bristol asked. “If you identify the right providers who know what they are doing they will bring their best practices. They are embedded in the way the services are delivered.”

“Can you share the benefits versus the cost on a proven model…another city or someone else that’s doing this?” Ogorchock asked. “One that is city-funded.”

“I don’t have an example of a city of your size. There are some that larger cities have invested in. I can get you their costs and the results,” Bristol responded.

“Are you talking about the San Francisco one? Because it failed, I believe,” Ogorchock said.

“I’m not sure which one you’re talking about. They have several,” Bristol stated. “They started one on Mission Street then started replicating around the city…but that was before COVID. But they’ve been kind of shifting to motels. But the direction in the field in California around best practices is to move to these, somewhat more service enriched shelter approach, that when you leave you exit to housing.”

“Where would they go after four months? Would they just go back to the streets? Ogorchock asked.

“No. That wouldn’t be the goal. You can set a target for a length of stay. You can start with 120 days. That would be an average. Some would stay fewer months, some would stay longer,” Bristol responded. “They could get bridge funding from the county or find another pathway to get to housing. That’s really the job of the folks doing the case management.”

“It’s a difficult topic, trying to find the right fit for the city,” Ogorchock said. “What are the costs versus benefits? What are we looking at? What are the expected outcomes?”

“I would say that the goal of this is to reduce the unhoused population as much as possible within the community,” Barbanica responded. “But my belief…is that we can’t do nothing. Not only is there a human cost, here. But there’s also a cost to the community. The costs you’re seeing here the city is already experiencing.”

“But those costs aren’t going away. You’re talking about 28 individuals going into a hotel,” Ogorchock responded.

“I’m not saying I’m for this program, here. But the time for doing nothing is over,” Barbanica stated. “We have an opportunity…to do something…whether we’re doing all of this or none of this. I don’t want to say the city has done nothing, but there are individuals staying in those hotels, right now. If you don’t find housing for them, you’re going to put them back on the street (at the end of four months).”

“The costs are astronomical,” Ogorchock said. “It’s not going to stop the dumping or the feces or the urine in the river. But if you don’t have the services for them, the mental, drugs and alcohol. If we’re not going to oversee what they’re doing in the room then what are we changing? Instead of giving a helping hand we want to help them out of their situation.”

“We probably should have prefaced this…cities have a choice. We can either continue spending resources…reacting to the situation. That’s solved absolutely nothing. All we have done is accommodate people on the streets,” Thorpe said. “Or we can help house people…so we can stabilize people’s lives so they can get the services.”

“We’ve been paying millions of dollars chasing people from corner to corner,” he continued. “This is bridge housing…Fresno just opened their fourth hotel to adopt this concept to move folks forward into permanent housing. Breaking news, there are no services in East Contra Costa County. Literally we have a CORE Team that we share with all the other cities as an entry point for services that don’t exist in our community.”

“We can stay reactive and waste taxpayer money or we can come up with solutions and provide interim, bridge housing then get them into permanent housing,” Thorpe added.

“We are looking at spending a lot of money. Something needs to occur here, for the community for those who are unhoused,” Barbanica said. “In 2019…over $500,000 has been earmarked to go to the unhoused. We used part of that money to hire the unhoused resident coordinator. There’s at least $140,000 to be spent on temporary housing and literally none of that has been used.”

He spoke of his tour of the former Motel 6 in Pittsburg. It has 176 rooms. “30% of the residents there are from Antioch. It’s a 90- to 120-day program. Again, wrap around services. There’s a doctor on-site. Within 10 days they meet someone to get into permanent housing…either to reunite with family or get them into a program.”

“The county has just received 100 Section 8vouchers…and $3 million for permament housing,” Barbanica continued. “I’ve asked Jazmin to use that $140,000 to help get people off the street.”

“I spoke to (Pittsburg Police) Chief Addington. Calls (for police service) at the hotel, itself have decreased over time. The calls to the surrounding commercial areas have increased,” he pointed out. “They are actually now paying two officers…because of the calls for service in those shopping centers. I’m asking for a hybrid of this.”

“I’ve spoken to Lavonna Martin of the county and she said the cost for this type of program would be about $2.5 million,” Barbanica stated. He then suggested using the $140,000 to pay for rooms for Antioch residents at the motel in Pittsburg.

“It won’t house everybody, but neither solution will house everybody,” he continued. “There’s not enough people in CORE. We need to partner with the county to get some people assigned to Antioch. Let’s not reinvent the wheel.”

“One thing I want to know, Homekey is being 100% paid for by the state,” Ogorchock said. “First responder calls have increased…at that motel. Doing a hotel ourselves is going to be a cost that we’re going to have year after year. These increase year after year, right?”

“You’re going to have to factor in costs going up,” Bristol responded. “You’re going to have that at the Motel 6.”

“But that’s paid for by the county,” Ogorchock said.

“If you get the county to dedicate a certain amount of rooms at that motel, then you can get started sooner,” Bristol responded.

“I know that we are not talking about a motel, tonight. If we were I would be in full support of it, but we are not. It would only be viable in District 1,” Councilwoman Torres-Walker said. “A community that you neglect and overlooked for years and don’t invest in and provide quality police services…I’m not saying this isn’t something that anybody will support. But we should be served as residents, as well. Quality of life is important…you can’t keep asking people to be burdened and give and give and give and not get something in return.”

Wilson said, “We do also need to think about the surrounding community. The Motel 6 idea I would like to hear more about. I know that with the county program that is set up there, most the residents there are either COVID-positive or high-risk for COVID. Is there going to be a way to keep people safe and keep people healthy. If we have a healthy, COVID-free unhoused resident, we don’t want to have them mix in that environment. But I want to hear more about Motel 6.”

“We need to give direction on bridge housing…do we want to move forward on that?” Thorpe asked. “I see Torres-Walker nodding her head.”

Barbanica said “no” as did Ogorchock.

“I see we have a majority to move forward on the bridge housing,” Thorpe said.

“We asked if there was any outreach to the residents around that hotel,” Ogorchock then said.

“We can still do that,” Thorpe said. “We had two community conversations, Mike and I. There seems to be good feedback. Other folks say it should focus on emergency housing, quick and fast. We’ve talked with Rocketship (Delta Prep K-8 school nearby).”

“We are to pursue an RFP on a bridge housing type model and look for grant funding opportunities,” City Manager Ron Bernal said.

“The Motel 6 concept I will bring back to council. If we can do both…let’s get all the information and do a determination,” Thorpe then said. “I know there’s frustration around the lack of spending $500,000. We haven’t wasted the money because we haven’t spent the money. I really want Jazmin to get going on the motel vouchers.”

“I know all council members have been out there. We all get calls. It tears our hearts out to see fellow human beings living in the conditions they are,” he said. “I know every staff member, every council member is committed to this issue to get people on the right path and get them into permanent housing. I want to applaud my fellow colleagues. I also want to applaud the advocates out there for holding the fire to our feet.”

Council Opposes Sewer Rate Increase, But Will Still Hold Public Hearing Process

In other council action, the members unanimously agreed that they want to postpone increases in sewer rates. But the Prop. 218 mailed notification of a potential rate increase and public hearing will still be done.

“It doesn’t mean we have to do the rate increase,” Ogorchock said.

If council postpones the rate increase, city staff said that will mean a greater rate increase next year, rather than smaller rate increases for both years.

“Is it possible CARES money or whatever it’s going to be called, that it can be used to help individuals?” Ogorchock asked. “Or is that a gift of public funds?”

“I believe that will be a question for counsel…because we have a lot of leeway in the use of the (federal) relief funds,” Thorpe pointed out. “That will be a separate agenda item. We need to have staff do what they’re going to do. But when it comes back we don’t have to raise the rates.”

“We are not voting to increase rates. We are just voting to examine this issue,” he said. “After we do the Prop. 218 and have our public hearings, then we will decide if we’re going to raise rates. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the last thing we want to do is raise rates.”

The public hearing date is set for June 8th.

The council still approved the process for the notification and public hearing, but on a 4-1 vote with Barbanica voting against.

The council then took a break before listening to 215 written public comments, according to the mayor. Plus, 10 people in the audience would speak live, according to City Clerk Ellie Householder.

But Ogorchock asked to suspend the rules to finish the consent calendar, first. The council agreed and approved all the items on the consent calendar.

Thorpe then reduced the time for each public comment from three-minutes to one. Click here to watch the entire council meeting, and listen to all the public comments at the end of the meeting.

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Antioch Council to discuss possible Bridge Housing Program using local motel

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

Source: City of Antioch

Program would be part of City’s strategy to transition unhoused community; might include use of five FEMA trailers at an estimated annual cost range of $450,000 to $858,000 for staff and operating costs, does not include cost for leasing motel

By Rolando A. Bonilla, Public Information Officer, City of Antioch

Tonight, as part of the update by city staff on Unhoused Strategies for the City of Antioch the City Council will explore the possibility of implementing a Bridge Housing Program for the City of Antioch. (See staff and consultants’ report here: Unhoused Strategies for Antioch report)

In October of 2018, the City of Antioch was forced to declare a shelter crisis due to the fact that there were no shelter beds available to meet the demand for the city’s unhoused community. From that point, through a series of task forces and ad hoc committees, the city council began the process of developing its policy framework with short- and long-term strategies to support Antioch’s unhoused community, including approving spending $517,000 in one-time funds. To date most of those funds have not been spent. The remainder could be used to help fund the program.

According to the staff report on the agenda item, last year the council approved hiring consultant Focus Strategies who conducted a Motel Housing Program Feasibility Study “looking at temporary program program options that could be operated out of a motel site.” Estimated costs of the program range from $450,000 to $858,000 depending on which option the council chooses.

The report also states, “The planned project will obligate the City to an annual expenditure of between $450,000 and $858,000 for the services and program operating costs excluding the costs of master leasing.”

An email was sent to City Manager Ron Bernal and all five council members asking how much the cost will be for the master leasing of the motel, in other words the cost for renting the 30 rooms from the motel owner.

“There needs to be a strategy that will lead people to permanent housing,” the report also reads.

“As a community, Bridge Housing is the answer we need to solve the chronic issue of unhoused members of our community living on Antioch streets,” said Mayor Lamar Thorpe. “There is nothing more basic and fundamental than the dignity of a place to call home. Through Bridge Housing, we will be able to help our most vulnerable while also strengthening our city as a whole.”

If the council directs staff to further pursue a Bridge Housing Program, Antioch will formally move towards a model that integrates housing and robust supportive services that ensures all residents have access to the assistance they need to navigate into permanent housing.

“As a city, the needs of unhoused residents challenge us on a daily basis.  Contra Costa County is a large geographical area and Antioch is one of 19 cities competing for the County’s regional resources.  A local framework enables us to take direct action and best position Antioch to reduce the number of unhoused residents living in encampments,” said City Manager Ron Bernal. “This kind of approach will improve the quality of life for the entire community.”

According to a recent study, in 2020, the City of Antioch identified 238 individuals as unhoused with half being identified as Antioch natives. Council action to proceed would provide a green light to solicit bids for support services and formally launch grant seeking efforts.  Grant opportunities may encompass support services, housing costs and any capital needs to establish the program, in addition to other strategies identified in the City framework.

Allen Payton contributed to this report. Please check back later for any updates.

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

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

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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Payton Perspective: Equity is code word for socialism, what will be the cost for Antioch?

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Antioch’s new Councilwoman, Tamisha Torres-Walker and her supporters, including those from outside of our city, have been pushing to include the term “equity” in the City’s vision and goals, and want the council to establish a Human Rights and Racial Equity Commission, as well.

During last Saturday’s Vision and Strategic Planning session held by the council and city staff, Torres-Walker was asked to explain the difference between equity and equality. She basically said equality is the government giving each person the same thing while equity is giving more to one person who doesn’t have as much as another. The challenge is where does government get what it gives out? Taxpayers. So, what Torres-Walker is advocating is more redistribution of wealth. That’s pretty much the definition of socialism or even communism.

She used the example of a short boy standing next to a tall boy behind a fence, who are both trying to watch a game. Torres-Walker  said equality is the government giving each boy a box to stand on, which gives the tall boy a better view while the short boy still can’t see over the fence. Equity, she said, is giving the short boy two or three boxes to stand on to see over the fence.

Torres-Walker also mentioned later in the meeting that she wants the city “to make sure that the development of the waterfront that some of that equity or you know whatever revenue generation is spent to also revitalize some other parts of District 1” further defining the term as redistribution of city revenues. (See related article)

However, what our government in the U.S. is designed to do is offer equality of opportunity, that we all start off equal with regards to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or in other words ownership of property. But what Torres-Walker is advocating for is equality of result. That’s unrealistic and simply unattainable. There is simply no way that government can or should ensure we all end off equal.

I would love to have that happen to me, too. Using equity, I can claim that it’s not fair Bill Gates has so much more money than me. Therefore, I need the government to take half of his money and give it to me. Then I could have a nicer car, bigger home and invest in all the various causes like he and his wife have done. I would also like some equity in the area of pro sports. I can claim it’s not fair that I didn’t and don’t get to play for the Oakland A’s, the San Francisco 49ers or Golden State Warriors and earn all the money the players on those teams do. I need the government to offer some special dispensation for older, out of shape guys like me, without as much talent as the other players, so I too, can enjoy playing and earn a nice living.

See how ridiculous that is? Where does it end?

Why shouldn’t I have half of Bill Gates’ money? It would mean we would be equal and achieved equity. But would that be fair? Of course not, because I haven’t earned it. Why shouldn’t I have been allowed to play professional sports when I was younger or get to play, now? Because I didn’t make the effort or have the talent to do so, and because I’m certainly no longer in shape. (Maybe I could be a designated hitter, as long as I wouldn’t have to run around the bases! LOL) Seriously, why then, should the government step in and attempt to balance the scales that I chose to leave unbalanced by my own life choices?

Why should the government give the short boy more boxes to stand on? Why don’t his family and friends do that for him? Or some nice “box for viewing sports” charity? We need to stop looking to government to solve all our problems and let it focus on what it’s designed to do.

I have and always will support the efforts of churches and charities to help, as Jesus said, “the least of these” and as the Disciple James wrote, “to look after widows and orphans in their distress”. But that’s through voluntarily helping others, not through coercion by a larger and more powerful government.

Of course, government must treat all of us equally in the provision of justice and services, and the City of Antioch needs to ensure all residents are treated equally and fairly, as well. When and where that doesn’t occur, it must be addressed. But that’s equality, which our government can guarantee, not equity which it can’t, in general.

However, if it’s the government that has caused the inequity, then it is government’s job to address it in very limited circumstances. I believe the only way equity should be addressed in our country is at the national level through the federal government, specifically in the area of reparations for descendants of slaves – who for generations were denied, due to laws and other actions by the government, their God-given, constitutionally-guaranteed rights to liberty, property and in many cases life, itself, as well as an education and to earn from their labors. The descendants of slaves need to be compensated with land – as ordered by President Lincoln’s Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman but was later overturned by Lincoln’s predecessor, President Andrew Johnson, following the assassination – an asset that can be owned, used, earned from and passed on to future generations, which is a current, major challenge among African-Americans. That’s due to the fact their ancestors were denied the right to own property for 250 years because they were property! But that’s a discussion for another time.

While I recognize we already have implemented forms of socialism at the state and national levels through health and welfare programs (some of which have had questionable results), the issue for the council members to determine is how much would such an effort cost the City of Antioch? The city budget has already experienced a $3 million reduction due to the COVID-19 orders, this past year and that in spite of Measure W’s one-cent sale tax that we the people voted for. This at a time we’re trying to increase the number of police on our force to continue to reduce crime in our city. Stepping back, the council actually would first need to show that inequity exists in the dispensing of city services. That burden frankly rests on the shoulders of Torres-Walker and her supporters who are advocating for the use of the term and the commission’s formation.

The mayor and council members need to be very careful with the terms they include in the City’s vision, mission statement, goals or any and all other documents, and be sure what they mean and that the public understands them. Because equity is such a loaded word, with a broad definition, that it could end up either costing us taxpayers a lot more money or take away funds from the more basic services the city needs to be providing that serve all of us, specifically police – the number one reason our city government was formed in the first place, because the number one reason government is instituted in America is to protect your rights from me and my rights from you – Code Enforcement, streets, water, sewer, landscaping, parks and keeping things clean. Plus, recreation.

I’d like to see the city improve and be great in those areas, first before taking on more programs and efforts with unknown price tags.

If the council members want to ensure children and other residents from low-income households get to participate in city recreation programs that are too expensive for them, then the council members can work with local charities or their own Antioch Community Foundation to provide subsidies or scholarships.

As for forming a commission, Torres-Walker doesn’t seem to realize we already have officials in place to address any human rights or racial equity issues – that she has yet to provide examples of – and she’s one of them. The City Council as a whole and any individual member can take complaints that any resident or business owner might have and address them on a case-by-case basis, just like a commission could do. If the complaints begin to be too many, then that can be brought before the council. If the complaints are mainly police related, then perhaps increase the role of the existing Police Crime Prevention Commission as has been suggested during the Bridging the Gap sessions. Or the council might just need to ensure whomever on city staff is causing the problems is replaced.

But unless and until there is clear evidence that such a commission is needed, it shouldn’t be formed as the Board of Supervisors recently did. Let’s see what their county-wide commission does and how they deal with such matters that come before them, first.

The council should not include the term equity in their vision, goals or any other guiding document for the City of Antioch nor form the proposed commission. If they do, the council members will be opening a Pandora’s Box of all kinds of potential increase to the size and scope of our city government and will most likely lead to a decrease in the basic services the city already is and should be providing which benefit all of us.

 

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