On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council agreed to direct staff to work on developing a policy that would ban restraints, holds, tactics and maneuvers that pose risk of positional asphyxiation.
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who introduced the item, voted against the proposal along with Police Oversight Standing Committee Chair Tamisha Torres-Walker.
The proposal was that the city manager and city attorney to work with the Chair of the Police Oversight Standing Committee (Torres-Walker) and the Antioch Police Department to develop a policy that protects members of the public involving in law enforcement incidents by identifying and prohibit the use of police officer restraints, holds, tactic and maneuvers that pose substantial risk of positional asphyxiation, potentially resulting in unconsciousness or death.
During the meeting, however, Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock made a substitution motion that the vice chair of the Police Oversight Standing Committee also be included in the discussion. Her substitution motion passed with Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson, Councilmember Mike Barbanica and Ogorchock all voting yes. Thorpe and Torres-Walker voted against.
Thorpe and Torres-Walker voted against the very measure they brought forward over a amended change that would include the vice-chair (Ogorchock) to participate in policy discussion.
The staff report shares that positional asphyxia occurs when a person’s body position prevents the person from breathing adequately. A person can be prevented from breathing adequately when excessive pressure is placed on the persons, neck, shoulder, back, or stomach. In order to ensure safety and minimize the risk of positional asphyxia, the policy should identify, evaluate, and prohibit holds, tactics, maneuvers and restraints that pose a substantial risk of causing positional asphyxia.
There were more than 60 public comments on the item which encouraged the council to move forward with a policy and urged the council to support Assembly Bill 490.
Under AB 490, which was introduced in February of 2021, it prohibits a law enforcement agency from authorizing techniques or transport methods that involve a substantial risk of positional asphxia. The bill passed through the State Assembly in June in a 55-15 vote and is currently in the State Senate.
Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Fairfield) also commented during the meeting and stated the following:
“I am proud to represent the city and community of Antioch and I am speaking in support of this item tonight. No police organization should use these types of tactics and I want to give recognition to the great officers of the city of Antioch Police Department and Chief Tammany Brooks,” said Frazier. “In times of great public safety challenges in Antioch, they go out into our community every single day working to keep our residents, our neighborhoods and our businesses safe. They do this with great care for the safety of our citizens. Our police, POA, and I support the resolution and this is why because it codifies how Antioch Police officers already handle criminal suspects with the best care possible. As a member of the California State Assembly, I have actually gone out on ride-a-longs with the city of Antioch Police Department and observed the care they do for their community. I appreciate you passing this resolution.”
During council discussion, Councilmember Torres-Walker made the motion to move the resolution forward as introduced. She also offered the following comments.
“For years, this city has lacked the sense of urgency to hold those who have sworn to protect and serve our community accountable for harms. True harms, cause of death, great bodily injury, as well as violating individuals civil rights. All of these have life altering consequences for our community,” explained Torres-Walker. “In practice, what leadership has done is provide vague descriptions of disciplinary actions taken to hold these officers accountable. Has given these bad actors promotions, salary increases, and have allowed them to retire with full benefits and given them the green light to continue to do harm in our communities.”
Torres-Walker did say she did not believe all officers were “murders, rapist, white supremacists or individuals with a god complex” but said a few have continued to run amuck in the community and the city had footed the bill.
“Am I perfect, absolutely not and I am held accountable for my actions by systems, the same systems that are supposed to hold law enforcement accountable when they are doing harm to the community,” explained Torres-Walker. “There is no such thing as a blue life. Only an individual doing the best they can do each day and have to deal with the fall out from another person not upholding their sworn duty to protect and serve.”
Ogorchock then made a substation motion which would include her in the discussion of the policy as she is the vice chair of the standing committee. This was given a second by Barbanica.
The council then voted 3-2 in support of the substitute motion.
Prior to the meeting, Antioch Police Officers Association Representative Steve Aiello said the department does not teach officers knee to neck, advocate it and condones it.