Antioch Council approves police cameras and two staff on 5-0 votes, new department software on 4-1 vote

The Antioch City Council members and city staff listen to public comments during the meeting on Tuesday night, March 9, 2021. Video screenshot.

Torres-Walker opposes new integrated software; her efforts to not use General Fund to pay for additional costs thwarted for first year.

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday night, March 9, the Antioch Council unanimously approved the purchase of police body and car cameras, hiring two new police department staff to support the camera program on 5-0 votes, and new department-wide integrated software, on a 4-1 vote with Councilwoman Torres-Walker voting no without explanation. They also heard a presentation on the county’s new Behavioral Health Crisis Response efforts.

As part of the police reform proposals, and at the urging of Mayor Pro Tem and District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson, the council heard a presentation from Contra Costa County Health Services entitled Behavioral Health Community Crisis Response and directed to city staff to work with the county’s new program, as proposed by District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica.

That is instead of having the city form their own mental health crisis response team and is expected to reduce the need for dispatching police officers to what are known as 5150 calls. Antioch Police officers support the effort.

“The goal is to increasingly be able to respond without law enforcement,” said the presenter. “We appreciate the partnership. But we understand how busy they are and don’t want to occupy their time.”

The county’s efforts launched last November. (See related article) While the program operates seven days a week, it’s not 24 hours a day, as they don’t currently have enough staff.

“We try very hard to stabilize the situation in the community,” the presenter added.

The program has three parts: Mental Health Evaluation Team which is designed to reduce law enforcement repeat calls for service and violent encounters, reduce visits to Psychiatric Emergency Services; the Mobile Crisis Team to de-escalate crisis, provide stabilization, and prevent psychiatric hospitalization; and the Mobile Response Team which is intended for youth and their families and has been operating for about 14 years.

The plan is to launch a phased implementation, this summer.

The council did not make any decision on the program but will either consider other programs and make a decision on the direction the city will go on the matter, during a future council meeting.

AXON police body and car cameras. Photos: AXON

Police Body and Car Cameras

Following a presentation by representatives of Axon Enterprises Inc. on their police body worn and in-car cameras, the city council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of both the hardware and operating system software.

“This doesn’t end tonight, there’s going to be policy that needs to be developed,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said.

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asked about the cost of tasers.

If the tasers were included in the package as a bundle, there would be a 50% cost savings.

“There are no tasers in this package, just to clarify,” Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “We already The mayor confirmed that tasers were not part of the agenda item

Barbanica then made the motion to approve the entire contract for the body and car cameras for the Antioch Police Department. Ogorchock seconded the motion.

“Is that amendments to the existing police budget or the General Fund budget?” Torres-Walker asked.

Thorpe said the council would decide later how to pay for them.

“We’re authorizing the city manager to make the necessary budget amendments to the 20-21 budget,” Ogorchock clarified.

“I was thinking incorrectly,” Thorpe said. “What we’re doing is leaving it in his discretion.”

City Attorney Thomas Smith attempted to ask a question of City Manager Ron Bernal

“Staff, let me remind you, please don’t do that. We’ll ask the questions,” Thorpe said to Smith.

“The budget amendment would be to add funds to the existing police budget to pay for the costs of the first year of these body cams and dash cams,” Bernal responded.

“They would probably come out of some savings…in the department,” Thorpe said.

“At this point it would come out of General Fund reserves,” Bernal responded.

“In subsequent years, the decision would come to us to decided,” Thorpe explained.

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

“Ten years overdue but we got it done,” Thorpe added following the vote.

“I’d like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Police Chief T Brooks said. “I’m looking forward to implementing the cameras.”

Staffing to Support the Camera Program

Following a brief presentation by Chief Brooks public comments about the hiring two staff for the police department to support the new camera program, Torres-Walker once again asked about how they would be paid for.

Thorpe responded that the first year they will be paid for out of the General Fund.

“It’s going to come out of the budget reserves, then we will do our jobs as councilmembers to determine how to pay for them in subsequent years,” he said. “We are not taking money from any other program.”

Barbanica then made the motion and it passed on a unanimous, 5-0 vote.

“Another historic first for Antioch,” Thorpe then said.

Data integration for the Antioch Police Department. Graphic: Peregrine Technologies

New APD Software

A presentation was provided by Antioch Police Lt. John Fortner and a representative of Peregrine Technologies on new, department wide software for agency-wide data integration into one platform for real-time decisions including from body and dash cams, as well as GPS mapping.

The software complies with state laws on data security and allows APD personnel to send documents to the District Attorney’s office electronically. The software also supports the requirement in the Racial Identity and Profiling Act to collect 16 points of data on every police stop, Fortner explained.

“We’ll be able to communicate with DOJ electronically…and share with other jurisdictions,” he stated. “Allowing us to reduce violent crime in the city, especially gun violence.”

“How many agencies in the county use this?” Barbanica asked.

“Four,” Fortner stated. “Pittsburg, San Pablo, Hercules and

“How many systems will it allow you to combine into this system?” the councilman asked.

“It will be 10 systems, approximately, that will be integrated into the system, initially,” said Nick Noone, CEO of Peregrine Technology.

“So, does this software allow you to communicate out of the state?” Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson asked.

“Yes…it will allow us to communicate with other agencies,” Fortner responded.

“What value does this technology bring to Antioch?” Ogorchock asked.

“Some of the largest values for us…it forms a one-stop shop…and vets that information in real time,” Fortner shared, and mentioned time savings. “Increased transparency and response. It integrates with…cameras. There’s faster resolution of criminal investigations. It builds trust with the community…by getting that information to the chief of police…and the city council…that could be shared with the community.”

“Why now?” Ogorchock asked.

“In the 20 years I’ve worked in Antioch, we have never had a platform to share all of our information on one platform,” Fortner said. “In Contra Costa County we’ve been looking for how to share information…and to support operations in the field. And all of that is happening, now.”

“If we have an unfortunate situation of an in-custody death…how do we get all of that body camera footage, dash cam footage to the district attorney’s office?” Thorpe asked.

“When the district attorney’s office contracted with Peregrine…that allowed the sending of video electronically,” Fortner said. “To store that on thumb drives you’d need terabyte drives.”

“That’s all I wanted to hear you say that Peregrine is the solution…to seamlessly send information to the district attorney’s office,” Thorpe said.

“That is correct,” Fortner said.

Barbanica then made a motion to approve a three-year contract for the new software. Ogorchock seconded the motion. With no further discussion, it passed on a 4-1 vote with Torres-Walker voting no.

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