On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council approved an ordinance that allows them to create an Antioch Police Oversight Commission.
ANTIOCH POLICE OVERSIGHT COMMISSION
The purpose of the Antioch Police Oversight Commission is to strengthen trust, transparency, accountability, and police-community relations in the City of Antioch by ensuring that the Antioch Police Department’s policies, practices, and customs meet or exceed national standards of constitutional policing.
The Police Commission shall advise the City Council, City Manager, and Chief of Police on the administration of the Antioch Police Department and on policy matters concerning public safety within the City of Antioch. The Police Commission shall facilitate community participation and oversight by reviewing and recommending policies, procedures, practices, and programs designed to result in community policing that is effective, responsive, and sensitive to the diverse needs of the residents of the City.
The Police Commission shall promote and encourage open communication and cooperation between the Antioch Police Department and residents of the City, recognizing that policing the City of Antioch is a shared responsibility. The Police Commission shall develop, review, and make policy recommendations aimed at informing the community of its rights and responsibilities when interacting with police officers (full agenda)
After public comments, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe aimed to clarify a couple of points. He explained as a general law city, the city does not have the amount of power as other cities like San Francsico, Oakland, Richmond and others who are charter cities and the power they have.
“Government code prescribes how the appointment process happens for any general law city, so nobody can take that power away from the mayor of a general law city. Only the mayor can make appointments, that is how it works.” said Thorpe. “That’s not my choice, that is government law that regulates this.”
Thorpe also said while they were calling it a commission, it was strictly an “advisory” because of Government Code and ensures they cannot give away their power—noting they tried that once with parks and recreation commission with grants to allocate only to be told by legal later they could not hand off that task.
“This is an advisory commission and it’s the same power we have already,” said Thorpe. “Everything we have here we have the power to do. Now we are asking for a different entity to do it in a different capacity… it would then have to be codified by city council. We are not trying to be tricky.”
Antioch city Attorney Thomas Smith confirmed the mayors comments and cited government code.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica stated he wanted the new interim police chief to have more time with the department to provide feedback.
“We have a brand new police chief, he has been on the job two weeks. Everything I have seen from the man so far tells me that he is extremely talented and has the ability to run this department and I support him in that,” stated Barbanica. “I believe we should give him more time in this police department and more time in this position before we look at doing this and get input from him as well.”
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker called this a body that will not only be a group that can help create policy, but also educate the community and build relationships with the police department.
“I want to just highlight this is not just merely symbolic,” said Torres-Walker. “It’s an amazing process to sit at the table and get to form public policy. Especially policies, practices and procedures that could cause someone their life.”
Torres-Walker continued stating that if they had a civilian oversight commission, that those who died at the hands of the Antioch Police Department would still be here today—stating she believed
“I would like to believe that if we had a civilian oversight that Kathryne Wade’s son Malad Baldwin would still be here today. Angelo Quinto would still be here today and that Rakeem Rucks would still be here today,” stated Torres-Walker. “There are countless others who lives may not have been impacted so negatively by institutions.”
Torres-Walker urged the council to approve this ordinance to give the community an opportunity to participate in the process and create a more transparent police department.
Councilwoman Monica Wilson said this commission was going to allow the community to have a voice and give input in an advisory role.
“It’s not a group that is just going to hate on the police, its coming in and giving their opinion on the oversight,” said Wilson. “It may even be giving accolades to the police or saying maybe we recommend some improvement. Ultimately, I believe its going to be something that uplifts and empowers.”
Wilson stated she was very much in favor of this police oversight committee.
Thorpe stated back when they started their police reform, this was the one issue that received a 3-2 vote before any language was written or concept being developed.
“So today, its going to be a 3-2 vote, it’s the way its going to be across the board,” stated Thorpe. “I think this is a good thing.”
Thorpe also pointed out that members of the Antioch Police Department have been willing to bring change and accept change while their current interim city manager and police chief come from San Francisco where they have worked with a number of oversight boards while the city attorney was the chair of the Oakland oversight commission.
“We have quite the breathe of experience as it relates to working with oversights that actually have power,” explained Thorpe who noted the Oakland Oversight Commission had the power to fire the chief. “That is not what we are creating here today, we are creating an advisory oversight board.”
The council voted 3-1-1 with Barbanica dissenting. Ogorchock was absent.