Antioch Mayor Thorpe claims lack of active sworn police officers part of national “Great Resignation” trend

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe speaks as announced, new interim police chief Dr. Steve Ford looks on during a press conference on police staffing and incentive programs for hiring more officers on Monday, April 4, 2022. Photo by Allen D. Payton

Says APD down 13 officers from 115 budgeted; proposes financial incentives to hire lateral officers from other agencies, academy graduates; admits to private meeting with DA, interim city manager

Police leader says officers are leaving and don’t want to hire on to APD due to mayor, council majority, policies and attitudes; attrition wasn’t happening under former Chief Brooks; claims five officers under investigation and on paid leave

Mayor Pro Tem Barbanica says APD down to 78 sworn active officers on the force, police officers telling him the council majority is to blame for attrition

Thorpe confirms currently only 78 active sworn officers

By Allen D. Payton

APOA President Corporal Steve Aiello spoke on the California W.T.F. podcast which aired on Friday, April 1, 2022.

Following a local podcast last Friday in which the president of the Antioch Police Officers Association, Corporal Steve Aiello said the lack of active sworn officers on the force is directly due to the mayor and council majority, their policies and attitudes toward police, and a YouTube video by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica posted on his official Facebook page, Sunday night sharing 24 officers are “off work” for a “variety of reasons”, Mayor Lamar Thorpe held a press conference Monday morning claiming the attrition in the department is due to national trends.

The announced, new interim police chief Dr. Steve Ford also participated in the press conference and later said his own hiring process should be completed either this week or early next week.

During the podcast, Aiello spoke about exit interviews with officers which provided him with the reasons they are leaving the department and partly why the force was down to just 83 active sworn officers two weeks ago. That was prior to the investigation by the FBI and DA’s office of five officers who have been placed on paid administrative leave, according to Aiello. (See related article)

Screenshot of Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica’s YouTube video on Sunday, April 3, 2022.

Thorpe wouldn’t confirm that number when asked during the press conference. Aiello said three of those officers have told him they were surprised and don’t know why they’re being investigated.

Barbanica said there are currently 78 active sworn officers, which Thorpe did confirm during the press conference. Barbanica also provided a breakdown of police staffing in his Facebook post writing, “an update on current staffing levels at the APD. Keep in mind, this is a 24/7 operation. Patrol 52 (Including Supervisors/Managers), Community Engagement Team 2, Traffic 4 (Including 1 Supervisor), Investigations 12 (Including Supervisors/Managers), Admin 8, Off Work 24 (variety of reasons).”

Current Staffing Confirmed at 102 Sworn on Staff, 78 Active, Claims APD Part of National Trend in Police Staffing Losses

Thorpe and Ford said the current Antioch Police Department staffing level is at 102 sworn police officers, leaving 13 sworn positions currently open from the 115 approved in the city budget. There are three officers currently in the police academy who will graduate in July, which will reduce the vacancies to 10. Thorpe confirmed there are currently only 78 active sworn officers on the force.

The mayor spoke of national trends with vacancies in government employment, which he said is, “the economic phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’ where many employees across the U.S. have resigned from their jobs, most notably during the global, COVID pandemic…resulting in lower productivity and a decline in morale.”

“Only hospitality and government are witnessing actual decline in the workforce, meaning workers aren’t being replaced or replaced fast enough, otherwise known as attrition,” Thorpe continued. “‘20-‘21 marked the highest rate of state and local government job openings in the past 20 years, which means local governments are understaffed. Law enforcement is the largest group driving workforce losses through local government.”

A ‘20-‘21 report by the Police Executive Research Forum rightly notes that nationally, there has been a 45% increase in retirements and a 20% increase in resignations compared to previous years” he stated. “Antioch’s law enforcement agency is no exception to this staffing crisis.”

However, Thorpe did not offer any reasons for the attrition either nationally or locally. Aiello stated during Friday’s podcast, the losses in the Antioch Police Department staffing weren’t happening during former Chief Tammany Brooks’ tenure in the position, who resigned at the beginning of last October.

Proposes Increasing Incentives for Lateral, Academy Hires, Increase in Over Hire Sworn Staffing by Four Officers

Also, during the press conference, Thorpe and Ford announced proposed financial incentives to attract the hiring of lateral officers from other departments and police academy graduates. They include increasing from $10,000 to a “$40,000 structured signing bonus”, with $20,000 paid upon hiring, $10,000 at the end of the officer’s first year with the department, and another $10,000 paid at the end of their third year. They are also proposing the same incentives for academy recruits.

The other proposed incentive is for up to $60,000 for down payment assistance per academy graduate for the purchase of a home in Antioch, for which they would have to remain on the Antioch police force for at least five years.

In addition, Thorpe proposed increasing the over hire of sworn police officer staffing in the department from the current 121 to 125.

However, “these positions will have to be directly tied to any anticipated retirements or resignations, or any long-term administrative leave,” Thorpe explained.

The city council will have to approve any of the proposed incentives and increase in over hire for the department.

Asked if the money for the home down payments will be from the city’s General Fund or the police budget, Thorpe replied, “Obviously, we have significant salary savings at this point. So, we can look at that pot of money. We could look at the General Fund but we could also look at ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) funding. So, again, this is for a 12-month period and if after 12 months we may find we’ll need to do it, again.”

Thorpe wouldn’t answer the question if he would offer any incentives to keep the current officers on the Antioch police force. But as he walked out of the council chambers, he continued answering questions of one reporter about hiring lateral officers who are under investigation in their current departments. Thorpe’s answer could not be understood.

Thorpe Admits to Private Meeting with DA, Interim City Manager, Says They Were Asked to Cooperate with Investigation of APD, Won’t Say How He’s Helping

During the press conference, Thorpe confirmed what had been previously reported, of a private meeting he and Interim City Manager Con Johnson had with Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton on Tuesday, March 22, the day before the investigation occurred.

The meeting was held just three days following Thorpe’s arrest for DUI and while he was under investigation by her department. (See related article)

Thorpe said the meeting was held by Becton to request his and Johnson’s cooperation in the investigation and they were to “keep confidentiality as this was an ongoing investigation”. Asked if the information he had received as one of the five council members was shared with all of the other four, Thorpe replied, “no, because the district attorney said to keep this confidential between myself and the city manager, because they were soliciting our help in the investigation.”

Asked how he as a civilian was helping the investigation, Thorpe replied, “I’m not going to get into that.” He later said, “Let me just clarify something. I was asked to be down there as the mayor of Antioch. So, beyond that I’m not going to answer how or what.”

Thorpe Won’t Confirm How Many Officers Under Investigation, Cause of Attrition

About how many officers were on paid leave and what Aiello had said Thorpe was asked, “you’re claiming, now, that those officers, 28 or so, are on paid leave because of national trends and they’re leaving, but they’re sick and injured…and he (Aiello) said that many are not coming back. Is that correct?”

“That’s not what I said. That’s everything you inferred,” Thorpe replied. “What I can tell you is that currently, we have 24 people who are on either injury or administrative leave. It’s a combination of both and we’re not going to get specific as to who, because we have to protect people’s personnel files and their privacy and their confidentiality. So, I’m not going to play this game with you trying to take information from people’s personnel files and exploit it for the media. I’m not going to do that.”

Asked again, “so, we were down to 83 officers before the five were placed on paid administrative leave, correct?” Thorpe responded, “currently we are down 24 unavailable.”

Barbanica Says Officers Tell Him Thorpe, Council Majority Are to Blame for Attrition

When reached for comment, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica said, “I speak with law enforcement, daily including Antioch officers and other local agencies and they’re telling me it’s the council majority that’s to blame for the attrition.”

“At one point, Antioch was viewed as the agency to go to,” he added.

See YouTube videos of the press conference by the Antioch Herald here, here, and here and on Thorpe’s official Facebook page.

Please check back later for any updates to this report.

the attachments to this post:

Mike Barbanica YouTube video 040322

Corporal Steve Aiello Pres APOA CA WTF

Thorpe speaks at press conf as Ford looks on 04-04-22

One Comment to “Antioch Mayor Thorpe claims lack of active sworn police officers part of national “Great Resignation” trend”

  1. […] a press conference, Wednesday morning, April 4, 2022 on Antioch Police Department staffing, hiring incentives and the investigation of […]

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