Antioch Mayor Thorpe violating council policy, refuses to place hiring of more police on agenda

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe refuses to place the hiring of mor police on a meeting agenda in violation of council policy. Source: Facebook

Although three council members have requested it, two last July

By Allen D. Payton

At the end of the Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, District 3 Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock became the third council member in seven months to request Mayor Lamar Thorpe place the hiring of additional sworn police officers on a council agenda. The mayor is required by council policy to place an item requested by any council member on a council agenda within six months of the request. But the agendas on Jan. 23, Feb. 8 did not include an item for discussing and approving the hiring of more officers, nor does the council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, causing Thorpe to be in violation of council policy.

Previous Requests for Hiring More Police

On July 17, 2021, following crime problems in the Sycamore Square Shopping Center, District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker asked Thorpe to place on the next council meeting agenda the hiring of four additional police officers and to focus them on the Sycamore corridor. Earlier that same week, District 2 Councilman and now Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica told Thorpe he was calling for increasing the Antioch police force by 2.5% per year until the department reaches the state standard of 1.48 sworn officers per 1,000 population. That would add about three officers per year over the next two years above the 115 currently allocated in the budget and give the city 170 total sworn officers.

Recent Requests for Hiring More Police

Then during the council meeting on Jan. 23, Barbanica again asked Thorpe to place the hiring of more officers on the agenda for discussion and a vote.

In comments about last month’s double murder of a woman and her 15-year-old stepson who Torres-Walker knew, as previously reported, the councilwoman wrote, “This didn’t have to happen, but I guess politics matters more than people.” She was referring to Thorpe not supporting or placing her proposal on a council agenda of hiring four more officers for the Sycamore area of Antioch, where the double homicide occurred. (See related articles here and here)

On January 31, following the double murder, Ogorchock told the Herald, “on the Feb. 8 council meeting agenda, the mayor needs to place the hiring of more police officers as Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica requested at the meeting of Jan 23rd. This is not a political issue. It’s a matter of public safety. Our residents should come before any individuals’ political agenda. The safety of our residents should be the number priority of this council. Only the mayor can place items on the agenda and this needs to become his priority.”

During the Feb. 8 council meeting, Ogorchock pointed out that City Attorney Thomas L. Smith had previously stated three council members can place an item on a council agenda or call a special meeting to discuss a matter they support if the mayor refuses to place it on a regular council meeting agenda.

Thorpe said he disagreed with that viewpoint.

No Additional Police in This or Next Year’s Budgets

While Thorpe has argued in the past that he’s not for defunding police, he continues to prevent the funding of additional officers, in spite of large increases in revenue in both this and next year’s budgets.

This year’s budget, which includes an increase in revenue of $5.6 million to the General Fund which pays for police, and next year’s budget shows a projected increase of $8.7 million in revenue. But the hiring of additional police officers was not included. Instead, the council majority on a 4-1 vote approved the creation of a new Community Resources Department and the hiring of 17 other city employees, including seven long desired Code Enforcement Officers. (See related article)

As previously reported, during the Nov. 23, 2021, council meeting, Antioch Finance Director Dawn Merchant said the city council will have an additional $2.3 million to spend in this year’s budget, with over $2.5 million additional from sales tax, including over $1.5 million more from Measure W’s 1% sales tax revenues. Plus, there were $6,425,217 less in expenditures than projected for Fiscal Year 2021. But the council did not spend any of it on hiring additional police. (See related article)

Antioch Police Staffing Half of Statewide Average

Currently the Antioch Police Department is at 1.0 officers per 1,000 population, half the 2.0 officers per 1,000 statewide average and much less than the 2.4 officers per 1,000 nationwide average.

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