Antioch Police Oversight Committee recommends policy banning restrains that can cause asphyxia on 5-0 vote

Video screenshot of the Sept. 28, 2021 meeting of the Antioch Police Oversight Standing Committee which includes all five council members, and attended by City Attorney Thomas L. Smith (bottom left), City Manager Ron Bernal (bottom center), Acting Police Chief Tony Morefield (center right) and Lt. Joseph Vigil (bottom right).

Acting as city council, the members will vote on the recommendation at a future council meeting; postpones other items to future meeting

“…this is a good policy, this is a reasonable policy, it is a common-sense policy,” – Chair Torres-Walker

By Allen Payton

During the Antioch Police Oversight Standing Committee meeting, consisting of all five council members, Tuesday afternoon, they voted to recommend to themselves at a future council meeting, a policy banning restraints that could cause positional asphyxia. However, before final adoption, they agreed to meet and confer with the Antioch Police Officers Association (APOA), and bring back two copies, the one adopted Tuesday and a red-lined copy with any changes that might be proposed. Proposed Positional Asphyxia Policy ACC-POSC 092821

Due to time constraints, the committee postponed discussion of the other two items on the agenda, the process for hiring a new police chief, and the department’s use of force policy. (See related article)

Policy Banning Positional Asphyxia

They received reports from Acting Police Chief Tony Morefield, with Lt. Joseph Vigil in attendance, on the proposed restraint ban policy.

“Does this interpretation in anyway prevent officers from performing their duties?” asked District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica.

“There is language in this policy that will create complications with officers on the ground,” Morefield stated.

“Prone handcuffing is going to be…a potential issue,” Barbanica said. “That stood out to me…if the policy stays as is.”

He suggested a meet and confer with the APOA and to tighten up the language.

“We arrived at the language…allowing officers, as reasonably necessary, to use prone handcuffing,” Morefield said. “It’s always about keeping the public safe, officers safe.”

“We will meet with the POA before the final copy comes before the council,” City Attorney Thomas L. Smith said.

“How does PD develop a policy, normally?” Ogorchock asked.

“There are usually two mechanisms for developing policy. Although Lexipol offers standardized policy, all our policies are custom-made,” Morefield responded. “Lexipol provides updates. Any time there is a change in law, we will accept those updates. There’s also best practices. But is that the way we do business in Antioch?”

“When developing a policy from scratch…speaking of the bodyworn camera policy, patrol, records, investigation and dispatch, we did a nation-wide search for existing policy on the matter,” Morefield explained. “We found the best policy on that we could. We also had a representative from POA sit in on that. We adopted the best policy we could find that’s best for our agency. We run that policy against several criteria, public safety, officer safety, best practices, law and liability.”

Public Comments Get Emotional

Some public comments wanted more public input for development of the policy before it is adopted.

Comments included those by his father, mother, sister and other family members.

His father said all bodyweight restraints should be banned “unless there’s a high-level threat”. Quinto was attacking his mother at the time his sister called 9-1-1 and she said he had a hammer in his hand which she took from him.

His mother, speaking through tears during her call-in comments, said the proposed “policy is inadequate” and that if the restraints mentioned in the proposed policy had not been used “my son would still be alive.” She ended her comments crying heavily. Quinto’s sister spoke, next while the cries of her mother could be heard in the background. She agreed with the policy in general but wanted changes to it, saying that even Lexipol had challenges with some of the policies developed using their online sample policies.

They and others continued the disproven accusation against four Antioch officers that Angelo Quinto died as a result of a knee-to-kneck restraint. He died in the hospital three days after the incident. According to the coroner’s report, “a full examination of the neck revealed there was no evidence of strangulation or crushed airway” and that “there were no fractures of the skull, torso, or extremities.” Finally, the Coroner’s Office stated, “Although the decedent had injuries consistent with a struggle with his family and law enforcement, none of the injuries appeared to be fatal.”

During a March 2nd press conference, then-Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks said, “at one point during the handcuffing, an officer did briefly – for a few seconds – have a knee across a portion of Angelo’s shoulder blade. This is a common control technique taught at CA POST approved Police Academies for prone handcuffing.  At no point did any officer use a knee or any other body part to gain leverage or apply pressure to Angelo’s head, neck, or throat, which is outside our policy and training.” (See related article)

In addition, according to a KTVU News report, Quinto “succumbed to excited delirium and prescription drugs during the physical altercation with officers, the Contra Costa County Coroner’s Office.”

The family has filed a wrongful death suit against the four officers and the City.

Council Discussion and Vote

“I will say that given that this process has never existed in the City of Antioch, before, this is a good policy, this is a reasonable policy, it is a common-sense policy and was developed in collaboration,” Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “I’m pretty impressed at how far we’ve been able to come with this particular policy.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe spoke next. ‘This is new for the City of Antioch so, I’m very pleased at the engagement with this council.” He called for “a real police oversight commission that is independent of the council.”

Thorpe then moved approval of the draft policy.

“I’ll second, but I have some clarifying questions,” Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson said.

“We all agree we need a policy on this. Although good work has been done on this, it feels like it has been rushed. Before we decide, I’d like to meet and confer with the APOA, then come back,” Barbanica stated. “Are we really meeting and conferring or just satisfying the rule? I appreciate, again the work that was done. I just think we need some language cleanup.”

“If we did move it forward to council, after we meet and confer, we would bring back two copies, one red-lined…that would include any edits we’re recommending,” Attorney Smith said. “Plus, the version you pass, today.”

“I would be OK with that,” Barbanica responded.

“Going back to the recovery position, you stated either side or seated. When is the judgement made for when you bring someone to side or seated position?”

“Preferably we get someone to a seated position,” Morefield responded. “It really comes down to compliance. More folks we get into handcuffs, the quicker we get to the seated…recovery position. It’s too easy to stand up. We get them on their stomach, on their side, then seated then standing.”

Thorpe then said, “I’m ready to vote. I’m fine with the redlining and bring back to council.”

The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

Moved Other Items to Next Committee Meeting

With the meeting getting close to 5:00 p.m. when the council’s closed session was to begin, before the regular meeting at 7:00 p.m., the members voted to postpone the remaining items to the next standing committee meeting, which is scheduled for the fourth Tuesday of October.

the attachments to this post:

APOSC mtg 092821

Proposed Positional Asphyxia Policy ACC-POSC 092821

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