Section 8 Plaintiffs Drop Bias Suit Against Antioch PD

Community support was key to withstanding false accusations; settlement terms validate city’s position, commitment to neighborhoods

Plaintiffs who accused Antioch’s residents and police department of engaging in a broad conspiracy of discrimination have agreed to dismiss their lawsuit in exchange for a settlement that is a fraction of what they originally sought.

This concession comes after more than three years of legal proceedings in which the City of Antioch consistently demonstrated the allegations to be false.

“This lawsuit was an attempt to take community policing — neighbors and police working together to build safer neighborhoods — and portray it as an elaborate and sinister conspiracy,” said City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland. “Eventually, the lawyers suing the city came to realize what Antioch residents have known all along – our city’s community policing programs have always been fair, unbiased and focused on addressing criminal, drug and nuisance activities in our neighborhoods.”

The settlement validates the city’s commitment to community policing and clears the way for future partnerships between neighborhood residents and police.

“Throughout the long process of litigation, city residents of every race and background consistently voiced their support for community policing and the Antioch Police Department,” said City Manager Jim Jakel. “Policing experts and academics examined our programs and deemed them examples of how to do things the right way. If anything, this process has deepened our commitment to working in partnership with the community to build stronger, safer neighborhoods.”

The city’s agreement to settle this case represents an economic decision. When faced with an offer from plaintiffs’ lawyers that was actually lower than the cost of proceeding to trial, Antioch’s joint risk insurance pool suggested that the city agree to the settlement. The Antioch City Council voted late Tuesday to approve the settlement agreement once the joint risk insurance pool has officially acted.

Under the agreement, the five named plaintiffs in the case will drop their lawsuit and abandon all claims against the city for a shared payment of $180,000. The plaintiffs’ lawyers negotiated the same amount for themselves, making the total payout $360,000.

“The plaintiffs’ lawyers will do their best to declare victory, but that will be hard work for them,” said James Fitzgerald, the lead attorney representing Antioch on the case. “This case was a reminder of the fact that while you can make headlines with ugly accusations, you need actual evidence to win a case. If plaintiffs’ lawyers believed there was one shred of evidence to support their clients’ claims, they wouldn’t have even looked at a settlement of this nature.”

The settlement also includes non-monetary agreements. In essence, the city agreed to follow the law, as it always has. Agreements include assurances the city will not retaliate against the plaintiffs or use Section 8 housing status as a basis for policing actions.

The city also agreed to provide the plaintiffs’ lawyers with copies of letters to the Contra Costa Housing Authority that they already were receiving under the litigation process.

The agreement specifically does not include court oversight or federal supervision. Both parties agreed to take any future disputes back to the same court – a provision that will protect the city from additional false accusations.

For Antioch, the settlement brings an opportunity to refocus valuable resources and attention on community issues and solutions.

“We could not have arrived at this beneficial settlement had it not been for the staunch support we received from city residents throughout these three years,” said Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando. “We are grateful to our community partners for standing alongside us as we stood up to these false allegations, and we are ready to move forward with them to make Antioch a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

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