On split vote Antioch City Council accepts federal grant for six police officers on school campuses

Antioch Councilwoman Monica Wilson speaks as Mayor Sean Wright, the other council members, City Attorney Thomas Smith (center right), City Manager Ron Bernal (bottom left) and Police Chief T Brooks (bottom right) listen during the meeting on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Video screenshot.

School Board Members Sawyer-White, Householder express their opposition

By Allen Payton

Following a presentation by Antioch Police Chief T Brooks and listening to over 100 comments mostly from students and recent graduates of high schools in Antioch opposing the placement of police officers on campuses, known as School Resource Officers (SRO’s), the Antioch City Council voted 3-2 to approve accepting a $750,000 federal grant to fund six SRO’s. Councilmembers Monica Wilson and Lamar Thorpe voted against the motion that included the condition the Antioch School Board agree to fund half of the cost.

But the decision will be left up to only three of the board members, as Trustees Crystal Sawyer-White and Ellie Householder, who is running for mayor, opposed placing the six SRO’s on Antioch school campuses. However, Sawyer-White supported having them at sporting events.

Mayor Sean Wright spoke first saying, “I would like to thank Chief Tammany Brooks for bringing this to council. This is something people in the community have been asking for, for a long time. But due to a downturn in the economy…part of the plan was as we increased the number of police on the force, with community policing there is an opportunity to put officers on campus. Not just for safety, but to build relationships.”

“Several students said they never saw cops, they didn’t have relationship with officers,” Wright continued. “Our youth need to understand our officers, and our officers need to understand our youth. That interaction…on campus. I have two children that attend Deer Valley High School. I think this is something that needs to be for us to approve, contingent upon the school board approving them, and that they want to help pay for them.”

In response to Wright’s comments Thorpe then said, “Like you I’m the only other one on here that currently has students in Antioch schools. When my daughter leaves Holy Rosary, I’m not going all the way to Carondolet. I want her going to high school in Antioch.”

“That’s not what I’m hearing from community members,” he said in regards to Wright’s comments. “What I have heard is that they want youth programs…that they’re wanting our youth directed into the right paths…gang intervention in our schools. I don’t want my daughter to go to school where there are police officers. With the work Chief Brooks is doing with community policing, stopping and playing basketball, that’s the kind of engagement.”

He said he was “particularly impressed” with the comments from all the youth.

“In the face of the $1.8 million cuts the school district recently made…counselors, bilingual aids for students that have language barriers. I’m all for funding positions at the school district,” Thorpe stated. “If we want to give police officers overtime to go to basketball games, I’m all for that. But I’m not for this as an African American parent, a Latino parent…with what’s going on in this country, today. I find it very very problematic that we’re going in this direction. I think we should postpone this until we find out from the district if they’re willing to fund this. And with the pandemic we don’t know when kids will be going back to school. This one gives me a lot of heartburn because this is against what a lot of people are demanding in our country, in our community, which are services.”

“I too have been listening to the youth,” said Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asking of Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks, “Can you please tell us why you applied for this grant, Chief?”

“Since I’ve been chief, I’ve had residents asking me when I think I can put school resource officers back into the schools,” he responded.

“You have been working with AUSD on this grant, correct?” Ogorchock said.

“That is correct. We worked with the school district on applying for this grant,” Brooks replied.

“All my kids and the kids they grew up with didn’t have a fear of police, because they had relationships. I’ve heard loud and clear they want police at the schools and at the events,” Ogorchock stated. “I’m appreciative of the students commenting. But I also have to listen to the parents.”

“Chief can you use this grant for mental counseling or anything else?” she asked.

“No. This is a DOJ grant specifically for school resource officers,” Brooks explained. He then said the decision has to be made by August 9 and that AUSD Superintendent Stephanie Anello planned to have a special meeting, next week to discuss the issue.

“I support this,” Ogorchock concluded.

“You said something to the amount of training,” Wilson said to Chief Brooks.

“In the first six months there’s a mandatory 48-hour training course for school resource officers,” Brooks said. “That training is new training. This training is current…to benefit the relationship between the schools, the students and law enforcement.”

The training includes de-escalation and cultural awareness, he mentioned. “The grant pays for this specific training and advanced training.”

“I’m not one to use our police officers as mental health experts,” Wilson stated. “I heard from the 700 people who commented (at the council’s meetings in June) ‘our police officers are not social workers.’”

“How do we address the trauma our students are going through at home?” she asked. “Our council of teens are saying we need to address mental health. I just think if we’re going to invest…we need to invest more in mental health…tutors.”

“I think this needs a longer conversation and I’m surprised this didn’t go to the school district, first,” Wilson continued. “I’d like to learn what their plan is, first. It just doesn’t sit well with me to have officers in a role instead of mental health experts.”

“I just can’t vote for these six officers when these students are asking for the counselors,” she concluded.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts then said, “First, I just want to make the comment that I wish we had more time to consider this. I think the chief received this June 25th, so we haven’t had the time to discuss this.”

She said she wished it could have been sent to the city council-school board subcommittee for discussion, first. Motts then suggested a rigorous interview process for the officers with parents and school staff.

“We have options, here,” she continued and asked for “Full support from the school board and there financial commitment of at least $250,000 and going forward the collaboration of all three agencies.”

“That’s really the only way to go forward with that,” Motts added.

Thorpe then said, “I think we need to ask the school district if they’re going to fund this entire thing. I also don’t accept this notion we can’t meet. Both the mayor and Diane Gibson-Gray, the president of the school board have the power to call meetings. So, there’s no excuse. The school-council ad hoc committee should have met on this issue.”

“Joy you did it as the president of the school board when they were trying to steal Dozier-Libbey Medical School,” he added.

Thorpe then made a motion that the school board pay for the entire amount. Wilson seconded the motion.

“Are you asking for them to fund the entire $754,000?” Motts asked.

“Yes,” Thorpe replied. “If they want this, they’ll pay for it.”

So, the amount he wanted the school district to pay for was the total amount except for the grant.

Ogorchock then offered a substitute motion to accept the grant and fund the six school resource officers.

“Part of the acceptance of this grant, we would then enter into an MOU with the school district,” Chief Brooks explained responding to a comment by Motts.

Motts then seconded Ogorchock’s motion.

“A substitute motion?” Thorpe asked. “That would require a four-fifths vote.”

“A substitute motion requires a majority vote,” City Attorney Thomas Smith responded.

“The motion is $750,000 contingent upon the balance from the Antioch School District,” Wright said.

“All six officers, the grant funds are there, and the school district picks up half,” Ogorchock repeated her motion.

“So, whatever we send to the schools, they could kick back to us with ‘no, we want to pay a lesser amount,’” Wilson said.

“To make it clear, all the current students, tonight they don’t have the resources to support our students,” Motts said. “To ask them to do something with the money they can’t do.

Brooks explained that Brentwood has three SRO’s and the district splits the cost fifty percent with the city. He also mentioned Pittsburg still has five SRO’s and the school district pays $550,000 toward their costs. However, Brooks shared that both Concord and Richmond which each had four SRO’s have stopped their programs.

The substitute motion passed 3-2 with Wilson and Thorpe voting no.

the attachments to this post:

ACC 07-28-20 meeting


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