Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Happy Birthday, Antioch! July 4th is also the 169th anniversary of its naming, and we have much to celebrate

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

The July 4th 1851 picnic scene with Rev. William W. Smith, in black holding a Bible, and townspeople of Smith’s Landing when they gathered together and renamed the town Antioch. Located at F and W. 2nd Streets on the 505 Building wall in historic downtown Rivertown.

By Allen Payton

This year’s Independence Day, today, July 4, 2020 marks the 244th birthday of our nation. It was on this date in 1776 that our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence sending a message to England that we would no longer be ruled by their king, that we would be a sovereign nation and each of our citizens sovereign people, as well.

In Antioch, we also celebrate the 169th anniversary of the naming of our city, today. It was on this date in 1851, 75 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that the townspeople gathered together with co-founder Rev. William Wiggins Smith to rename the town from Smith’s Landing to Antioch, after the city in Syria where the followers of Christ were first called Christians. They did that out of respect to Smith’s twin brother, Rev. Joseph Horton Smith who had died the previous year. In 1849, after traveling from Boston, the Smith brothers each purchased 160 acres from Dr. John Marsh along the Antioch waterfront, where the city’s historic, downtown Rivertown District is located, today.

According to the book entitled, Looking Back – Tales of Old Antioch and Other Places by Earl Hohlmayer, “On the fourth of July, 1851 a basket picnic was held at the residence of W.W. Smith, then standing on the high ground…The all-absorbing topic of the day was ‘What shall we name our town?’ Between thirty and forty men, women and children gathered together from far and near… W.W. Smith proposed that, inasmuch as the first settlers were disciples of Christ, and one of them had died and was buried on the land, that it be given a Bible name in his honor, and suggested ‘Antioch’, (a Syria town where two important rivers meet and where the followers of Christ were first called Christians), and by united acclamation it was so christened.”

A historic mural was commissioned by the Antioch City Council in the late 1990’s which includes a scene from the July 4, 1851 picnic which can be seen above. It’s located on the wall of the 505 Building next to the parking lot at F and W. Second Streets in Antioch’s historic downtown Rivertown.

Although our community, state and nation currently face health, economic and other challenges, the future looks bright and we can celebrate our freedoms, enumerated in the Bill of Rights, although somewhat restricted, lately. Enjoy celebrating and remember to thank God for the freedoms we get to exercise and experience each day in our country.

Happy Independence Day and may God continue to bless the United States of America. Freedom!

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In spite of Gov. Newsom’s order, churchgoers will be singing while wearing masks

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Psalm 94:8

“Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” Acts 5:29

By Allen Payton

As part of his new statewide health orders issued on Wednesday, July 1, California Governor Gavin Newsom included a new requirement that “*Places of worship must therefore discontinue singing and chanting activities” during worship services. (Note: The asterisk does not refer to anything else in the document) See https://files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf

Under the section entitled Considerations for Places of Worship it reads, “Discontinue singing (in rehearsals, services, etc.), chanting, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.

The state’s document, entitled COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies refers to the practice of one’s faith as “personal” as if it’s not supposed to be done in public, like other activities such as protesting.

“Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations. In particular, activities such as singing and chanting negate the risk reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing,” the document reads.

However, in response after contacting county officials, leaders of Golden Hills Community Church, one of the larger churches in Eastern Contra Costa County with campuses in Brentwood and Antioch which will hold their first in-person service in 17 weeks on Sunday, July 5, shared with their members that singing while wearing masks will be allowed.

In an email on Friday, June 3 Senior Pastor Phil Ward wrote, “This week both the state and the county announced a ban on ‘singing and chanting’ in houses of worship. Since we now have the ability to gather for in-person worship, and since singing is an essential aspect of Christian worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), we found this prohibition unreasonable because it dictates what is permissible in worship. As a result, we reached out to the governing authorities to express our concern. In response, we were told that singing is permitted so long as masks are being worn—something we already planned to do.”

Although the sanctuary at their Brentwood campus has a capacity of 1,700 people and could easily accommodate 350 people while social distancing, the church will be following the limits of only 100 people per service. They will also utilize their former sanctuary, now used as a multipurpose room, which can also meet the state and county’s limitations of 100 people maximum or 25% of room capacity whichever is less. Finally, the church will be offering four services this Sunday and adding a fifth service, beginning next Saturday night, July 11.

Debate Over Following All Government Laws & Orders

International evangelist and San Francisco native Mario Murillo wrote this week in response to the governor’s order that Christians should not follow such laws or orders because they are evil and go against what God teaches His followers.

I can’t think of a worse idea than to stop praise and worship because Gavin Newsom told you to,” he wrote. “It’s time to wake up to the sad truth that California has declared war on the church. Doesn’t the Bible tell us to obey them no matter what? Absolutely not. And it is shocking how many believers do not know their Bible or have been given false teaching. There is no verse in the Bible that tells you to obey evil government or laws.”

Many believers often quote a section in the book of Romans, chapter 13, verses 1-7 to support following the government’s orders: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

However, Murillo quotes other Bible verses that offer the opposite perspective, that believers are only to follow rulers who aren’t evil and laws that aren’t evil.

“It seems to say that we are to honor government in every form, right? Wrong,” he wrote. “Lost in all the quoting of this verse on submission to government is the most important part: The description of the ruling authority.”

Murillo shares that description writing, “they are not a terror to good works” and “they praise good works.”

He also shared what Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:3, “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, but do not do.”

“Do what they say, but don’t partake of their hypocrisy,” Murillo explains. “Watch them for that moment when they cross the line and come between you and your God.  Just as our conscience should drive us to obey the law, we should also know when our conscience tells us not to obey an evil law.”

“Here’s when Peter reached that tipping point, speaking to those very same Pharisees,” he continues, quoting Acts 4:18-20, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’”

Murillo then quoted Acts 5:29 writing, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’”

Newsom’s Order is an Evil Law That Must Not Be Followed

“God not only does not endorse evil government: He will have no part in it,” Murillo continues. He then quotes Psalm 94:20 writing, “Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.”

“There is your answer. A corrupt throne (government) cannot be allied with God,” he wrote. “In fact, evil laws are the worst form of sin. They provide legitimacy to evil.”

Murillo concludes by quoting German pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident and Christian martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Wearing a Mask While Singing or Chanting Works

So, ordering followers, of at least Christianity and Judaism, to discontinue singing violates what God wants practiced during worship. As it is written in Psalms 98:4, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Therefore Governor Newsom’s order is an evil law that must not be followed. But, for safety’s sake the spirit of the order can be met by wearing masks while singing or chanting in church.

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Contra Costa residents urged to celebrate Independence Day by staying at home, to stay safe from COVID-19 on July 4th and remaining dependent on the government

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Contra Costa Health Services Coronavirus Dashboard statistics as of Thursday morning, July 2, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.

“the more we come together in groups, the more COVID-19 spreads in the community.” – Dr. Chris Farnitano

By Allen Payton

In a rather ironic announcement Thursday, with reports of COVID-19 spreading rapidly in many Bay Area neighborhoods, members of the Association of Bay Area Health Officers (ABAHO) representing thirteen jurisdictions, urge residents to protect themselves and the community by celebrating Independence Day while remaining at home, under what amounts to house arrest, during the July 4th holiday weekend.

The Fourth of July, the day on which we as a nation celebrate the declaration of our independence from the tyrannical rule of England’s King George III, with his oppressive regulations and taxation, is traditionally a time to celebrate with firework shows, parades and cookouts. But this year the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many community leaders cancelling public events. Gatherings with others from outside your household, such as members of the extended family, are also considered potentially risky, according to the Association of Bay Area Health Officials (ABAHO).

Health officers from across the greater Bay Area say staying home this year is a healthy choice.

“Nobody wants to be cooped up, or to miss out on the holiday,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Health Officer, a member of ABAHO. “But the more we come together in groups, the more COVID-19 spreads in the community. And the more it spreads, the more it endangers older adults and others at high risk of serious illness.”

So, instead of merely requiring those older adults and others at high risk to stay home, he wants all of us to.

“You can spread COVID-19 even if you don’t feel that sick,” the ABAHO explained in a their press release announcement. “You can pass the disease to someone else before you have symptoms, and even if you never develop any symptoms at all. When infected people come in contact with others who are high-risk, there can be deadly consequences.”

Those deadly consequences have so far amounted to 78 deaths out of 1,115,000 residents in Contra Costa County, or one death in every 14,300 people. Currently there are a total of 41 patients with the virus in our hospitals and not all of them are from our county. At the same time, some county residents who have tested positive are in hospitals in Alameda County. In addition, according to the Contra Costa Health Services Coronavirus Dashboard, as of today at 11:30 a.m. a total of 76,139 people have been tested in our county and 3,326 have contracted the virus. The good news is, to date, 2,311 who have tested positive in Contra Costa have recovered, which means there are currently 896 residents in our county who have the virus and should be staying home under self-quarantine.

Yet because of the risks they have outlined, Bay Area health officers recommend people who are not members of the same household remain physically distant. Unless you choose to follow the county’s guidelines for sexual activity, which can be found, here and recommend that “If you do have sex with others, have as few partners as possible.”

According to the ABAHO, the best ways to protect yourself and slow the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Continuing to stay home as much as possible
  • Practicing physical distancing outside the home
  • Wearing face coverings or masks when outside your home
  • Avoiding gatherings with people outside your immediate household – (even though Contra Costa allows gathering in groups of 12 people, and as many as 100 if you’re attending an outdoor or indoor worship service or protest. So, be sure if you’re number 101 or more, to please leave and either worship or protest on your own.
  • Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently
  • Staying home from work, school or daycare if you feel sick

Bay Area residents who have symptoms are also encouraged to get tested for COVID-19, and to do so immediately. Check with your local health department for more information about testing and about efforts in your community to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, please visit cchealth.org/coronavirus.

ABOUT THE ABAHO

The Association of Bay Area Health Officials (ABAHO) represents health officers and other public health professionals from thirteen jurisdictions. ABAHO coordinates and communicates regional messages to save lives, promote and protect health, prevent injury and illness, and improve wellness in the region’s diverse communities. According to an article on CaliforniaHealthLine.org “The alliance, formally called the Association of Bay Area Health Officials, was born in 1985 in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.” That article, entitled “The Inside Story Of How The Bay Area Got Ahead Of The COVID-19 Crisis”, is dated April 21, 2020 a week after Contra Costa experienced it’s peak, so far, of 44 Coronavirus patients in county hospitals on April 14.

The members of the ABAHO and other government leaders have returned us to the days before 1776 with even more oppressive regulations than those of King George, III – who still allowed the colonists to freely worship, go to work, operate their businesses (unless they were seditious newspaper publishers), earn a living, and go about their daily lives – while instilling fear into the populace about the virus, as well as by releasing inmates from federal and state prisons, and county jails, and increasing the national debt in order to keep providing unemployment payments, grants and loans (with interest, further burdening business owners) to most, but not all those who qualify and have been approved, yet who are still waiting to receive even a penny from either the state or federal government, while at the same time allowing the homeless, protesters, looters, vandals, Antifa members, and CHOP and CHAZ residents to enjoy maximum freedom, in effect guaranteeing only to them the full exercise of the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights, while restricting most of the rest of us from enjoying them.

Enjoy celebrating your freedom on Saturday!

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Writer criticizes Antioch council for dysfunction and knee-jerk reactions

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Dear Editor:

The following comments were submitted and read during the Antioch City Council meeting, Tuesday night, June 23, 2020:

Mayor and Council,

I cannot begin to express how disappointing it is to watch you work as a group. Dysfunctional does not begin to describe the Council as a whole.

The Council is constantly knee-jerk reacting to whatever event seems to be occurring on any one day.

First there is a curfew based on no real emergency but based on what you think might happen in Antioch. A real emergency is required. You sunset and defer to the county who then immediately

sunsets their curfew. Have any of you read the state and federal Constitutions?

Then you remove a planning commissioner based on comments made on his personal Facebook page. All of which I thought could have been better stated by the commissioner. But you react and make a First Amendment violation.

Then you move on to an immediate need to review the Police only to have some 700 people give you an ear full of “what are you all doing”. The play by some Council Members to gain control of the evaluation was precluded by a better decision here.

Have you learned nothing from your non-reflective reactions, recently?

Don’t you all understand that reacting is not being proactive? That responding doesn’t generally

produce a positive result. We don’t need your reactions; we need leadership. Reasonable, competent leadership; and we need it now.

Simply stated I’m not going to support any of you for re-election if I don’t see some major improvement in your actions and decisions between today and November.

Show us you have learned something from the past few months.

Mark Jordan

Antioch

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Letter: private investigator, former cop and councilman writes Antioch police force needs “some improvements”

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Editor:

Antioch needs to reform its overall sworn police and operations! The police operations and its personnel are generally carried out and handled properly, but there definitely needs some improvements with both. I speak from my personal, vast 50 plus years’ experience, education, training, investigations, and facts (not preconceived ideas or popular notions)! That is about 75,000 hours of my public safety related investigations work.

In many of my investigations the absurd and unrealistic Police excuses for abusing and/or killing individuals that they claimed presented a danger to the Police, included – an unarmed completely naked man killed, an unarmed person running away from the Police killed, an unarmed person pulling up his pants killed, an unarmed driver backing up shot several times in the back of his head, an unarmed man dancing severely beaten and the K9 also sicced on him, an unarmed man furtively moved killed, an unarmed man holding a cell phone killed, an unarmed man hiding next to a vehicle killed, etc. In each of these cases the officers’ police department, and D.A.’s Office, who jointly investigated (to include in Antioch’s) claimed that the officer(s) acted properly, and no accountability was required.

Along with other cities Antioch’s public safety operations and police operations fall short in some areas. Antioch’s police abuses, misconduct, and even unwarranted serious injuries and killings of some of our civilians over the years warrants an honest review and correction, long overdue. It is my belief that over 95% of our sworn Antioch officers are good, honest, hardworking, and deserving of our support and individual recognition. The rest deserve to be individually disciplined, removed from the police force where appropriate, and even criminally charged whenever warranted.

I have also thoroughly investigated some Antioch police-contact incidents where civilians were physically abused, their constitutional rights violated (decided by the court), some killed, and even some were lied about in court. When the police and administration were informed about such then the wheels of injustices and cover ups commenced, including with former Police Chief Cantando who did little to nothing about it. This included where an Antioch black male was arrested, charged, and later further victimized in trials by an officer! Fortunately, he was quickly acquitted by the jury, and won a civil settlement from the city. I also believed and reported that the officer perjured himself in the case several times. When complained to former Chief Cantando he did little about it. And, some of those who were complained of were thereafter even promoted, and some have retired afterwards with higher rank and its related increased retirement pay.

I believe that if appropriate, required, complete, and thorough internal Police investigations had been carried out then those responsible would have been held accountable via various levels of discipline and accountability. When some of those Antioch Officers responsible were asked at depositions they revealed that they were not even asked about what they did until years later – just before they appeared under subpoena! It was and is within the Police Chief’s responsibility and authority to have initiated such, but the former Chief Cantando did not. If he had spent more efforts and energy on his Chief’s responsibilities, and less on his reported then personal efforts, then perhaps Antioch’s police operations and personnel would not need as much current reviews and changes now required. Antioch’s citizenry deserves better and rightfully now have risen and have demanded needed changes!

I have worked through current Chief Tammany Brooks over the recent past concerning information that I had received about some criminal events and those involved, to include gang members’ operations, drugs and guns trafficking, and gang killings occurring in Antioch. Fortunately, the current Chief Tammany Brooks properly responded and acted on those pieces of information and facts. I encourage every member of our community to communicate with our police and its management in efforts to address Antioch’s public safety environment. This includes supporting hiring more police, not having less as is mistakenly suggested, and improving its overall police personnel accountability.

I stand by my many public written letters and personal appearances over the years before the city councils supporting the police overall, and still do about most of such. I believe that no one has publicly done so more than I have over the years. That is a fact. And, I still believe that we need more Police manpower, and their budgeting needs to be reworked also!

Ralph A. Hernandez

Antioch

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

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

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

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

By Allen Payton

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

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

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

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

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

Minds Already Made Up, Irresponsible

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

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

What Was A United Effort Is Now Divided

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

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

Very Vocal Minority

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

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

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

Committee Unnecessary as Input Already Received

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

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

No Defunding or Redirecting Funds Spent on Antioch Police

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

Reforms Already Being Implemented, More Issued

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

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

Unify Don’t Divide

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

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

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

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

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Former cop & Antioch Police Crime Prevention Commissioner, now private investigator shares concerns about police reform ad hoc committee

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Dear Editor:

Following is the letter I sent to the council.  My goal is to educate the council and have them conclude this ad-hoc commission is not needed.  Feel free to print this letter so the community can be educated also.

Dear Mayor and City Council,

My name is Jesse Zuniga, I moved to Antioch in 1989, from the inner Bay Area.  I served as a police officer for the City of Hayward between 1983 -1994.  In 1994, I lateraled to the City of Tracy where I served as a police officer until I retired in 2002.  I also served as an Antioch Police Crime Prevention Commissioner for two terms.  Since moving to Antioch, I have worked in partnership with our police department and city government to maintain a safe and clean community in order to improve the quality of life for our residents.  I have been a private investigator for nearly 20 years, and I serve as an independent panel investigator for the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC’s) Legal Defense Fund.  My firm provides independent and neutral legal investigations for PORAC’s legal defense fund when police officers are accused of misconduct or criminal behavior.  I travel throughout the state conducting such independent investigations.

I am aware of the “Ad Hoc Police Commission” that has been proposed by council members Lamar Thorpe, Monica Wilson and Thomas Smith, our city attorney.  I would like to provide you a summary of educational and valuable facts to consider before implementing a “police oversight commission.”

In my nearly 20 years of subcontracting as an independent investigator to PORAC’s legal defense fund, I have conducted hundreds of investigations involving first responders in both San Francisco (SF) and Oakland.  Both of these Bay Area cities have independent police oversight commissions.  I can attest to the fact that these oversight commissions are comprised of civilians and attorneys that have little knowledge about police practices.  Oversight police commissions are judging police officers’ tactics, practices, training policies and providing a sense of reform within their police organizations.  These commissions are often implementing policies and procedures that put the safety of first responder at high risk, because these policies conflict with state and federal laws and the California Peace Officers Standards and Training regulations.  Oakland PD was mandated by the Federal Court to implement a variety of reform procedures in the early 2000’s that led to officer deaths, following the infamous Oakland Riders trial and the establishment of new policies by their police oversight commission.

The California Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), provides exemplary training and guidelines that conform with state and federal standards to keep officers and the community they protect safe.  The POST training standards and guidelines are also supported by State and Federal Law. Police chiefs and sheriffs implement rules, regulations, policies and procedures that conform to the POST training standards and State and Federal standards/laws.  Law enforcement agencies often submit their rules and regulations/policies and procedures to POST for review and approval by the POST commission.  POST also conducts frequent audits and provides oversight to each law enforcement agency;  the POST audit process is very strict.  The strict standards that a police agency must meet are being evaluated by professionals in the law enforcement field to ensure officer safety and the safety of their constituents.

My experience with the SF and Oakland oversight commissions has shown me that civilian oversight commissions often make decisions based on personal bias’ or perceptions instead of reviewing a situation objectively and adhering to the POST standards, state and/or federal law standards.  The personal, emotional and political decisions of oversight commissions have proven to be costly to their cities and detrimental to the safety of their law enforcement personnel.  Commissions make decisions to impose discipline upon officers based on personal feelings or agendas, which often violate the Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights, the California Government Code, the agency’s policies and procedures and state and federal law.  The officers in question have the right to appeal the commission’s decision via an administrative proceeding or a court of law.  The expense of the appeal process is incurred by the city who imposes the discipline.  Frequently, the employee is reinstated by an administrative hearing officer/court judge.  Upon reinstatement, the city must make the employee whole by way of full reimbursement of lost earnings and benefits.  Because the administrative and court process can take years, the costs range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions per employee.   In many cases, the commission’s decisions will override the imposed legal disciplinary recommendation by a police chief or sheriff.  We saw this recently in Oakland.  The Oakland commission used a predetermined outcome regarding a police officer’s use of force, which was in conflict with the police chief’s recommendation.  The former Oakland police chief’s decision was based upon the POST standards, state and federal law standards.  The commission’s predetermined disciplinary outcome did not meet the legal standards; the commission attempted to strong arm the former Oakland police chief following the commission’s decision.  The chief’s refusal to violate departmental policy, along with state and federal law led to the unilateral commission decision to terminate the Oakland police chief.  The former chief has filed a lawsuit against the city of Oakland and if the chief is awarded compensation or the city coordinates a settlement agreement, either can prove costly to the city of Oakland.  Antioch’s city attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith was a member of the Oakland commission that terminated the Oakland Chief.  Mr. Lloyd has served on the Oakland oversight commission since October 2017 and his term expires in October 2020.  Mr. Lloyd has first hand knowledge of the adverse affects the Oakland oversight commission has had on the Oakland community and police department.

Poor political decisions by an oversight commission have negative affects on a police organization and will create low morale that will lead to an exodus of police officers.  The recruiting/hiring process and training new officers is costly.  Subsequently, applicants are less likely to seek a job opportunity where the city government and commission do not support their officers’ and community members’ safety.  Cities like Oakland and SF have been struggling for decades to retain qualified officers, therefore, those cities have lowered their hiring standards, which attracts less desirable applicants that cannot meet the strict hiring standards of other agencies.  Antioch has benefitted from the hiring of the experienced and highly qualified officers who have left Oakland, SF and Stockton due to the unsavory political climates created by their oversight commissions.  

A few years back, the Antioch Police Department suffered from poor political decisions.  The results of the poor political decisions led to officers leaving the Antioch Police Department to work for other Bay Area agencies where the officers were valued as professionals.  I have been involved in investigating several administrative police disciplinary matters within the Antioch Police Department.   I also have professional relationships with many current officers, some of which came from other police departments.   Recently, the Antioch Police Department’s morale has improved, community relations have improved significantly, community based policing has been implemented in a successful manner, and accountability within the police department is equal amongst the ranks.  Implementing an oversight police commission can diminish all of these positive gains.

I would like to provide a summary of checks and balances already in place, and to provide some educational facts regarding the 6 points outlined on your ad-hoc commission meeting agenda:

  1.  “Prevention of excessive use of force by police officers against members of the public, including banning police from using carotid artery restraints and chokeholds;”  The application of the carotid restraint is a technique that is only used in extreme circumstances where a combative suspect needs to be subdued because the suspect’s active resistance and the use of other techniques and or tools have proven to be completely ineffective.  The carotid restraint is rarely used and has proven to be effective when an officer’s life or community member’s life is at risk.  As with any technique or tool used, there can be negative implications.  Although the risk of death is present when applying the carotid restraint, statistics show that death as a result of the carotid restraint is very minimal and is not as lethal as discharging a firearm.
  2.  “Demilitirazation”, elimination of military equipment from the police department.  Police agencies nation wide have had to Implement military style equipment and tactics in order to match the military style weapons and military type body armor criminals posses and often use in mass school shootings, malls and places of worship.  In 1997, TWO bank robbers in North Hollywood armed with AK-47s were responsible for shooting multiple officers and citizens during the botched robbery.  The police officers carrying handguns were outgunned by the robbers.  The Los Angeles SWAT team was deployed and one suspect wearing body armor was shot 28 times before becoming disabled.  The 1997 North Hollywood incident created the nation wide implementation, demand and need of military style weapons and tactics by police in order toprotect law abiding citizens and law enforcement personnel.  It is not reasonable nor responsible to take police departments back to the days of carrying revolvers (which carry six bullets) while criminals are armed with AR-15’s, AK 47’s, or many other assault type weapons that can carry or fire 30, 50 or hundreds of bullets in seconds, or bullets that can pierce a typical police bullet proof vest or concrete walls.  The use of armored vehicles, military style weapons and military type protective gear is necessary to protect the police officers while they risk their lives protecting their communities.  Criminals engaging in violent assaults in a community while using military style weapons must be met with equal or superior tools to neutralize the threat.In 2009, four Oakland police officers were killed by one suspect who was armed with a military style weapon.  One officer was killed during a traffic stop and the other three officers were SWAT team members who were ambushed by the suspect.  Had the Oakland SWAT and the Alameda County SWAT team members not been equipped with the approrpiate military gear there may have been more officers or community members killed by one suspect.  Luckily, Oakland Police and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department SWAT teams and patrol officers were properly equipped and trained to neutralize such a violent suspect without further loss of life or harm to the Oakland community.   I am confident you would not want Antioch PD to suffer such a loss or be ill prepared to handle such a devastating and dangerous act of terror in our community.
  3.  “Required use of conflict de-escalation approaches by all sworn officers when interacting with the public”.  De-escalation tactics are taught and used everyday by police officers.  People must understand that when an officer implements his/her de-esclation tactics there are two critical points that need to occur for the de-escalation tactic to be successful.  First, the suspect has to mentally recognize the de-escalation process and second, the suspect has to agree and engage in the de-escalation process.  If the suspect refuses to recognize or engage in the de-escalation process then the de-escalation process is rendered unsuccessful and useless.  Once the de-escalation tactics are refused by the suspect, the officer must recognize the refusal and immediately implement other tactics to control the situation in order to protect the suspect, the officers or community members.
  4.  “Increased accountability, including the process of receipt and review public complaints against the police for excessive use of force, racial and/or ethnic profiling, and other police misconduct”.  California POST and the state and federal laws are already in place to seek accountability that is within the law.  The law already allows for a review of public complaints pertaining to the use of force or other personnel complaints.  This is called a “pitches motion” and it can be filed in court.  There is also a public records request process, however, there are legal standards implanted by the state and federal government that must be met by the police agency prior to releasing the information requested.  There are also legal standards for the reporting of racial and/ethnic profiling that must be met by a police agency.
  5.  “Improvement of police officer candidate recruitment, screening, training, and hiring practices including an analysis of policies concerning implicit bias, candidate diversity and candidate background checks; and” .  California POST has strict standards for the police hiring process.  Applicant have to pass a series of physical and medical exams, an intense multi phase psychological exam (which will expose the exact objectives you outlined), a polygraph exam, and an intense background check tho include behaviors that are seen from the time an applicant was a child to adulthood.  The criteria is so strict that most applicants fail the background, psychological exam or the polygraph, which disqualifies the applicant from proceeding with the hiring process.
  6.  “Police Department budget appropriations” . The police department manager/chief has checks and balances for the budget process.  The police budget is overseen and approved by the city manager, the city treasurer and ultimately the city council.

It is my hope that after reviewing the summary of information provided, you can agree that there are many substantive and strict legal checks and balances already in place.   If we are to seek equity and accountability, then let’s demand that of everyone, including those who engage in behavior that is detrimental to the safety of our community.  As council members you took an oath to represent all members of our community and your constituents.  Creating a police oversight commission will only increase costs and decrease safety for our police officers and our community.

Thank you for your consideration,

Jesse Zuniga, Jr.

Antioch

 

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Antioch Mayor Wright issues statement on murder of George Floyd

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

To the Citizens of Antioch:

There are times in the world and nation when we must all stand together. This week is one of those times. We mourn the needless loss of George Floyd. As we focus on the unconscionable actions of the police officers in Minneapolis, we must condemn police brutality and racism in all forms. As we watch the protests, anger and frustration of our fellow citizens, we must acknowledge that these emotions are not new. That they are deeply embedded in the fabric of our country due to a history of racism and bias that has compounded pain over time. We have talked of change but see the repetition of death and hurt that has found no resolution.

I empathize with the suffering of the African American community. I acknowledge that their frustration is real, and I can feel the anguish of another needless death. I am willing to stand in protest of racism and injustice. I am willing to listen and cooperate as we strive toward solutions that will make our community safer for every citizen. We strive to live in a city that is open to everyone, a place that we can truly call home. At this time, we need to do better and we will do better.

I see what a lot of politicians are putting out – more rhetoric about the problem and how we can change. As Antioch’s Mayor, I’m not going to pontificate on the problem nor its solution. Why? Because I don’t believe all of us fully understand the horrors of racism as it is manifested institutionally through systems of disproportionality and exclusion.

Many of us never experienced it, or even worse, some continue to pretend it doesn’t exist. What I do know, is that the anger, frustration and rage in our community is REAL. I am not condoning the use of violence, but we as a community must acknowledge the reality of being marginalized and misunderstood because of skin color. Racism is a cancer that must be properly diagnosed and treated. Failure to do so will result in the demise of us all. Our communities deserve leaders that will stand up and speak out against any form of racism. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

So, as your Mayor, I am not stating that I have all the answers but at this time I am willing to advocate. I want you to know that I am here, I stand with, by you and for you, and I’m willing to listen to what you have to say. I want to learn what it is like to walk in your shoes. I embrace you, and want to hear your thoughts on how we can make the city of Antioch a better place. A place that strives for the social, educational and economic equality for every resident. We endeavor to live and labor in a city that looks out for everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, age or your social economic status.

I’m hoping that we can begin discussing racism, openly and honestly, together in townhalls across the city. We desire to accomplish this after the Shelter in Place has been rescinded. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts, your comments, and any and all suggestions on how to move forward with this dialogue. We are ONE Antioch, with common hopes, common dreams, and common desires seeking to arrive at a common destination. I am available at mayorseanwright@gmail.com and look forward to your input. Thank you.

Please stay safe.

 

 

 

Mayor Sean Wright

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