Antioch Police Oversight Committee to consider ban on restraints, changes to chief hiring process, use of force policy Tuesday afternoon

All five council members serving on committee, will make recommendations to themselves; will council choose new chief instead of city manager?

By Allen Payton

Acting as the Police Oversight Standing Committee, the entire Antioch City Council will consider voting to recommend to themselves a “policy banning restraints, holds, tactics and maneuvers that pose a substantial risk of positional asphyxia”, changes to the “police chief recruitment and hiring process”, as well as Antioch Police Department Policy 300: Use of Force”.  The meetings are now held before the council’s second regular meeting of the month on the fourth Tuesday, and tomorrow’s will be begin at 4:00 p.m.

The committee was to only consist of District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker, who serves as chair, and District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock, who serves as vice chair. However, this will be the fourth meeting of the committee with all five council members included, although according to the minutes of the committee’s July 13th meeting, Mayor Lamar Thorpe “stated he asked for the entire City Council to attend, and it will be temporary.”  (See agenda)

For the first two agenda items the recommended action is for the committee “to recommend that the City Council approve a policy by formal action at a regular meeting of the Antioch City Council” or “provide direction to staff to revise the policy in accordance with the standing committee’s instructions.” The third item only includes the option to “accept the presentation”.

Ban On Restraints

According to the staff report on the item, “during the Regular Council Meeting on August 24, 2021, the City Council directed the City Manager and the City Attorney to work with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Police Oversight Standing Committee and the Antioch Police Department to develop a new policy.”

A draft policy, on banning restraints potentially causing positional asphyxia that could result in unconsciousness or death, is included with Tuesday’s meeting agenda. The staff report reads, “Command Staff and subject matter experts from the Antioch Police Department researched existing Positional Asphyxia policies from around the world, including medical expert opinions on the matter. In addition, the City team examined federal and state laws which guide law enforcement use of force along with reports on industry best practices.

On September 7, 2021, staff met with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Police Oversight Standing Committee to review the gathered materials and receive further guidance. A draft Positional Asphyxia Policy was created and underwent further revision by Police Department staff.”

Furthermore, according to the staff report, “The Police Department contracts with a company called Lexipol which designs web-based policy manuals and training for law enforcement agencies all over the United States. Lexipol further provides a full library of customizable, state-specific law enforcement policies that are updated in response to new state and federal laws and court decisions. Through multiple meetings, the consensus of the City team was that this policy should exist as a stand-alone policy. The…Positional Asphyxia Policy was drafted in Lexipol and is consistent with federal and state guidance as well as industry best practices.”

Following are the “Positional Asphyxia Requirements” in section 3 of the draft policy:

“Officers shall comply with the following conduct concerning positional asphyxia: a) A person lying on their stomach in a face-down position may have difficulty breathing. An officer shall only physically force a person to a face down position when reasonably necessary to do so to protect the safety of the person, the officer, or pedestrians.

b) Immediately following the application of force or restraint of a person, and as soon as it is safe to do so, officers shall position a person in a recovery or seated position to allow for free breathing and to avoid positional asphyxia.

c) Any body-to-body contact or officers’ placement of weight on a person must be transitory. Officers shall not forcibly hold down or place weight on a prone person any longer than reasonably necessary to safely restrain the person. As soon as practicable, an officer’s weight on a person shall be removed. Officers shall be aware of the amount and duration of any weight placed on a person.

d) If officers hold a person down while restraining them, officers shall avoid placing weight on the person’s neck or head which can fracture the hyoid bone or cervical spine. No more than two officers shall place weight on a person’s upper body or torso. If additional assistance is needed, an additional officer or officers may restrain a person’s limbs to restrict their movement.

e) Once officers safely restrain a person, officers shall not sit, kneel, stand, or place their weight on a person’s chest, back, stomach, or shoulders.

f) Officers must inquire about a restrained person’s well-being, including, but not limited to, that person’s recent use of drugs, any cardiac condition, or any respiratory conditions or diseases. Officers shall recognize and respond to risks such as the person saying that they “can’t breathe”, gurgling or gasping sounds, panic, prolonged resistance, the lack of resistance, etc. Officers must be aware of environmental factors, including the nature and temperature of the surface on which they are restraining a person. For example, holding a person down on a hot surface, or in mud or water, can cause other injury or impair breathing.

g) If a person continues to resist after being restrained, officers must check if any resistance is related to a person’s difficulty breathing. When a person has their breathing restricted, the person may struggle more. What officers perceive as resistance may be an indication that the person is struggling to breathe.

h) Officers shall share any relevant information regarding a person’s condition, medical condition, what has transpired during their interaction, or any information about drug or alcohol use, which might be medically relevant, to other officers, personnel, or individuals administering medical aid. If there has been any restriction to a person’s breathing, such information is medically relevant and shall be shared at the first practical opportunity.

Persons who exhibit extreme agitation, violent irrational behavior accompanied by profuse sweating, extraordinary strength beyond their physical characteristics and imperviousness to pain, may be experiencing a serious medical condition and at risk of sudden death. Calls involving these persons should be considered medical emergencies. Officers who reasonably suspect a medical emergency should request medical assistance as soon as practicable and have medical personnel stage away if appropriate.”

New Police Chief Hiring Process

According to the staff report, Torres-Walker “requested that this item be placed on the agenda”. In addition, city “staff prepared a description of the City Manager’s recruitment and hiring process for the Chief of Police. The steps are described as follows:

  1. Work in tandem with the Human Resources Department to review and update the job description and salary for the position as appropriate. Any changes to either would require City Council approval.
  2. If an in-house candidate(s) exists, determine whether an internal or external recruitment best serves City goals and agency needs.
  3. If an internal recruitment is the selected pathway, publish minimum qualifications, open the application process and establish the candidate pool. Review applications and invite qualifying applicants to the interview process.
  4. If an external recruitment is the selected pathway, initiate the RFP process to solicit and select an executive search firm to conduct the recruitment. Once a firm is selected, contribute to brochure content and work with firm to establish the overall timeline and approach. Once adequate applicant pool is achieved, review applications and identify candidates for interview.
  5. Utilize a panel interview format comprised of different audiences – city managers, public safety executives, department heads, police department personnel and community members.
  6. Once the panel interview process informs the ranking of candidates, City Manager interviews the top candidate(s).
  7. Conditional offer of employment is made to the top candidate.
  8. Conduct a thorough background check which includes, credit history, criminal background, professional and personal references, neighbors. If an external candidate is selected, may visit finalist’s current / last place of employment to gather additional information.
  9. Upon clearance of all conditions, make and announce appointment.”

Council To Hire New Chief? Choice Already Decided?

From ICCMA.

As a council-manager form of government, it is the responsibility of the city manager to hire the police chief, as one of the city’s department heads. The council hires the city attorney and city manager, and the latter hires all the department heads. Sometimes that’s done with input and/or approval by the council, other times not. According to the International City/County Management Association, “the elected officials hire a professional city, town, or county manager” and the manager, “recruits, hires, supervises, and terminates government staff”.

However, the word on the street is that some council members want the city council to choose the next chief to replace former Chief Tammany Brooks, who recently retired and accepted a position with the City of Boise, Idaho. In addition, while Antioch Police Captain Tony Morefield, as previously reported by the Herald, is the acting chief, one name floated to be the city’s next police chief is that of Cornelius “Con” Johnson, a retired San Francisco Police lieutenant. He was introduced last November, as a member of then-mayor-elect Thorpe’s “transition advisory team” to co-chair police reform, along with City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith.

Use of Force Policy

According to the staff report for the item, Torres-Walker “requested a presentation and review of the Antioch Police Department’s current Use of Force Policy”, as well. Lexipol was also used to develop it, as the department has contracted the company for the past six years, and the “Use of Force Policy…is consistent with federal and state guidance as well as industry best practices”.

The policy “provides guidelines on the reasonable use of force”. Furthermore, section 1, the Purpose and Scope of the policy reads, “while there is no way to specify the exact amount or type of reasonable force to be applied in any situation, every member of this department is expected to use these guidelines to make such decisions in a professional, impartial, and reasonable manner (Government Code § 7286).

In addition to those methods, techniques, and tools set forth below, the guidelines for the reasonable application of force contained in this policy shall apply to all policies addressing the potential use of force, including but not limited to the Control Devices and Techniques and Conducted Electrical Weapon (i.e. taser) policies.”

The nine-page policy includes information on a De-escalation Requirement, Factors Used to Determine the Reasonableness of Force, Pain Compliance Techniques, Alternative Tactics – De-escalation, Deadly Force Applications, Shooting At or From a Moving Vehicle, Display of Firearms; Reporting the Use of Force including Notification to Supervisors and to the California Department of Justice; Medical Consideration and assistance; Responsibility of Supervisors including Watch and Bureau Commanders; Training and Policy Availability for access by the public.

How To Provide Public Comment

Notice of Opportunity to Address the Standing Committee

Members of the public wishing to provide public comment may do so in the following way:

1) Prior to 3PM the Day of the Meeting – Written comments may be submitted electronically to the following email address: policeoversight@antiochca.gov. All comments received before 3PM the day of the meeting will be provided to the Police Oversight Standing Committee at the meeting. Please indicate the agenda item and title in your email subject line.

2) After 3PM the Day of the Meeting and During the Meeting: Oral comments can be submitted to the Police Reform Oversight Committee during the meeting with advance registration. You may register and attend the webinar by visiting   https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Qfj08tzhQg2lOh01zllM4w

– You will be asked to enter an email address and a name. Your email address will not be disclosed to the public. After registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to connect to the meeting.

– When the public comments are announced, click the “raise hand” feature in Zoom. For instructions on using the “raise hand” feature in Zoom, visit: https://www.antiochca.gov/raise_hand.

– When calling into the meeting using the Zoom Webinar telephone number, press *9 on your telephone keypad to “raise your hand”.

Please ensure your Zoom client is updated so staff can enable your microphone when it is your turn to speak. Please be advised that the City cannot guarantee that its network and/or the site will be uninterrupted. To ensure that the Standing Committee receives your comments, you are strongly encouraged to submit your comments in writing in advance of the meeting.

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Council-Manager Form of Govt diagram


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