By John Crowder
At the October 28 meeting of the Antioch City Council, a presentation on Measure C was given by Tammany Brooks, Field Services Division Captain of the Antioch Police Department (APD) and Michelle Fitzer, Administrative Services Director for the City of Antioch. That presentation, suggesting there has been significant improvement in police officer staffing, represented as an increase of almost 20%, has now been called into question.
In the city’s October 27 news release about the report, Mayor Wade Harper stated “There has been a lot of misinformation being spread around about what the City is doing with the funds from Measure C, so it’s nice to have the indisputable facts in this Status Report that clearly demonstrate my colleagues and I have kept the promises we made to the community.”
Then, just prior to the presentation at the meeting, Harper stated that a lot of information people had been receiving lately about Measure O were, “flat out lies,” in response to campaign mailers sent out by the No on Measure O committee.
It was presumed the presentation by Brooks and Fitzer would correct the record.
Less than two days after the article about the city council meeting was posted online on the Antioch Herald website, however, resident Rich Buongiorno commented on it, providing statistics which cast doubt on the veracity of the statements made during the meeting.
Buongiorno has been leading a recall effort against Harper, specifically for what he considers Harper’s lack of action to adequately address the city’s crime problem.
In his on-line comments, which can be viewed here, Buongiorno stated that the Contra Costa Times reported APD sworn staffing in the latter part of 2013 was 83 in an August 16 article, 85 in an October 15 article, and 84 in a November 27 article. Brooks and Fitzer said during their presentation that the number was 76 in October of 2013. Buongiorno contends that the presentation given at the council meeting provided a lower starting number in order to mislead the public into believing the percentage increase in sworn officers was much greater than has actually occurred.
The November, 2013 Chief’s report, which can be viewed, here, under Current Staffing Levels Sworn Positions it shows a figure of “73 Full-Duty Officers,” as compared to 74 full-duty officers in July, 2013.
A look at the reports provided to the Antioch City Council by the APD regarding staffing levels over the last two years lends support to the claims made by Buongiorno. Indeed, they could be read as even more damning than he suggests.
Quarterly reports given by APD to the city council, which can all be found on the city’s website by looking at the agenda for the meetings at which reports were given, state that the sworn staffing levels were as follows:
7/30/2013 84 sworn, 74 full-duty
11/26/2013 84 sworn, 73 full-duty
Based on the numbers given during the presentations, APD sworn staff has still not returned to the high of 92 shown for April 23, 2013. Even the most generous interpretation of the number given, from January to October of this year, only shows an increase of 12.3%, not the 19.6% touted by city staff.
In an interview conducted on November 3, Buongiorno said that, since commenting on the Herald article, “I delved even further into the mystery numbers provided by the City of Antioch.” He also said that he has now incorporated data from the city manager reports into his analysis.
“What is significant,” he said, “is that if they are indicating a sworn staffing level of 88, the ‘boots on the street’ level is far below that. With anywhere from 10-15 officers on leave, for whatever reason, that only leaves somewhere between 73 and 78 sworn officers on the street.”
“We simply don’t have enough people fighting crime,” Buongiorno concluded.
The Herald contacted city staff, including Fitzer and City Manager Steve Duran, along with APD Chief Allan Cantando and Mayor Harper on Monday night, via email, asking for an explanation of the discrepancy. Fitzer responded on Tuesday morning stating “We will research your questions and get back to you.”
When no response was received, Herald staff contacted them again on Thursday afternoon. Duran responded, about an hour later, that Fitzer was working on it.
“Michelle is trying to reconcile discrepancies between the payroll system number, which was lower than another number that had been previously reported. Logically, at least one of the numbers was incorrect,” he said, “and we want to make certain that we have the correct number before giving it out.”
“We will get you a number as soon as it is certain,” he added.
When asked about his previous comments about the “indisputable facts” on police staffing and if he had checked their numbers, Harper responded, “I leave the details up to staff to present to us. My goal is to make sure all the money goes to police and code enforcement, so we can be a safer city. The numbers continue to be a moving target. But, I trust staff to do their best to provide accurate information.”
For now the discrepancy remains unresolved. However, Harper confirmed that Cantando is expected to make a presentation to the City Council at their next meeting on Thursday, November 13, about the use of the Measure C funds and police staffing.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.