On Friday, during a special meeting of the Antioch City Council, they voted to support all the proposals that Mayor Lamar Thorpe brought forward for police reform.
This was done during the 7-hour meeting with little information provided by the police department as Thorpe referred to this as only a “blue print” and items would come back for greater discussion in the future and formal policy and procedure approvals.
The meeting 7 hour meeting featured council debate, 200+ public comments to cover the 8 agenda items:
- Mental Health Crisis Response
- Officer Training Enhancements/Modules
- Demilitarization Efforts
- Increased Accountability and Transparency, including body worn and in vehicle cameras
- Establishing independent review of on duty police officer complaints
- Police hiring and screening practices
- Notification protocols for major incidents
- Resolution implementing a policy for the city, including all departments, regarding the selection of Attorney’s providing contract services, and the review, authorization and execution of all agreements and legal services and servers to be provided by attorney’s to the city – Staff Report
Thorpe opened the meeting with an opening statement.
“Today marks our first step in building the police department that every segment of our community can trust. We know that police it, we know that the police is the community and the community is the police. And in that spirit community, voices are a critical component in improving the perception of police legitimacy and fairness,” stated Thorpe. “Please understand when special interest groups label, any critique of our police department as opposition like anti police, cop haters, defenders, evolutionist. They are deliberately obscuring the distinction between undo attacks and legitimate criticisms of practices and policies to that end. This resistance to transparency and accountability, reduces police legitimacy among different segments of our community, making individuals less likely to report crimes and to less likely work with law enforcement to solve crimes.”
“I’m asking council members to have the same foresight voters did in November of 2020, instead of falling into the trappings of those who seek to divide us with pro and anti-law enforcement political rhetoric, voters recognize that reform is synonymous with progress improvement, betterment refinement in adaptation,” stated Thorpe. “Today’s measures, in my opinion, are common sense solutions that will provide our police department with the necessary tools to do your job in a manner that will allow for the community to feel safe, respected, and equally will allow for more members, more members of our community to see law enforcement officers at this public servants.”
He said the nights actions are not to adopt or not adopt the framework for police reform, but rather allow them to move forward as “policy makers” in March to design a blue print for police reform.
Our job this evening is to, is to either adopt or not adopt the framework for police reform so that we may begin our work as policy makers and staff can begin preparing for March in short, we’re designing a blueprint around police reform.
Tamisha Torres-Walker acknowledged that change is never easy.
“I want to acknowledge that change is never easy and sometimes an effort to hold on to the things that have made us most comfortable in society. We’re willing to risk the lives of others do. So. I want to say that no institution is perfect because systems are full of people, absolutely flawed, um, people and human beings under systems founded in oppression and slavery, which had become a safe Haven for those who refuse to look and look forward and move us forward.” Stated Torres-Walker. “Today is no different. What we’re doing today is the floor and not the ceiling with establishment of independent police oversight commission, the demilitarization of the Antioch police department, body cameras, dash cameras, as well as independent investigations into police use of force and misconduct and harassment. We have just begun to repair the breach of trust between the city between this particular city department and the community we serve.”
She also requested the city council consider in the month of March, which is police reform month, that the council establish a Office of Public Safety, to redefine what would make the community safe.
Antioch Police Chief Presentation:
Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks provided an overview of the Antioch Police Department based on the agenda.
“We at the police department are constantly looking at ways to improve and whether it be new training industry, best practices, technology, or ways to engage with our community, you can rest assured we have some of the absolute best and brightest people serving this community doing so with integrity and a very high level of professionalism,” stated Brooks.
He stated his presentation were on items specific to tonight’s theme of having healthy high quality and well-trained officers, as well as the department committed to transparency and accountability.
- Mental Health Crisis Response: Officers have a robust peer support system, psychological services group, wellness smartphones app, a wellness committee group,
- Officer Training Enhancements/Modules: one of the first things I (Chief Brooks) did when I became chief is work with the police union to come up with a schedule for our patrol officers that allowed us to conduct monthly trainings without the need for overtime, Some of the topics covered are racial profiling issues and impacts police response to persons with mental and developmental disabilities, a crimes training and cultural diversity, but we’ve also taken steps to ensure that we go above and beyond the minimum required training for posts. Additional training has included implicit bias training, crisis intervention and deescalation tactics. We’re also scheduled to begin training in emotional intelligence, procedural justice, and principled policing as well.
- Increased Accountability and Transparency, including body worn and in vehicle cameras: Antioch Police will be adding a police accountability page that will provide use of force data, misconduct data, demographic data for police dept employees, working within Senate Bill 1421, responding to public records request and making those documents available, bringing new software to track complaints, early intervention of officers with multiple complaints, began hiring outside independent investigators to conduct investigations into certain allegations of misconduct. He also highlighted a new customer service tool which can send text messages to people who call for service and officers will be delayed (think Amazon delivery) which also will include a customer service satisfaction survey. He is also looking at establishing a Chiefs Advisory Panel to collaborate with community members and foster relationships.
Brooks closed his presentation noting his efforts to move the police department forward.
“I’ve made a concerted effort to following the blueprint established in the final report of Barack Obama’s task force on 21st century policing through the tenants and the pillars as they’re called in the report of building trust and legitimacy policy and oversight technology and social media, community policing, and crime reduction, training, and education, and officer safety and roles,” stated Brooks.
Mental Health Crisis Response
The Antioch City Council received a presentation by Ben Climer, a member of the CAHOOTS team in Eugene Oregon which is a model the city of Antioch is looking at for non-emergency responses to mental health, substance use and homelessness related crisis. CAHOOTS works with the cities of Eugene and Springfield with a combined population of 230,000.
According to Climer, rather than relying on first responders, they aimed to optimize them when needed which CAHOOTS has become the “fourth arm” of the first response system to police, fire, EMS.
When responding, you have a crisis counselor and an EMT which work on de-escalation, social work, interventions, mediation amongst family members who are fighting, suicide assessments and interventions, and other things. The EMT is there to asses patients to rule out other medical issues which allows for a fire truck not to show up.
“90% of the time, the police are not involved,” stated Climer who said multiple times no one in the CAHOOTS program has been hurt. He further highlighted the program has diverted 3,000 emergency room visits per year and over 2,000 ambulance diversions saving $8.5 million per year to local fire agencies.
For the city of Antioch, it was recommended by Climer that Antioch has between 11-12 employees in this type of program—which he admitted they use a lot of “part-timers”.
This topic received more than 200 public comments.
Councilmember Mike Barbanica stated he was very supportive of a program like this being enacted, however, he encouraged the council to look at working with the County which has been working on a program since last fall which would be a 24-hour program. The County is expecting the pilot program launching in June or July.
“I am very supportive of this idea to do this, I just feel that the county already has the wheels in motion, and they’re working with all of the cities in the county,” stated Barbanica. “That would be probably the best way, or at least to look at putting our money in there first and seeing how this is actually going to work, because it’s going to take a while to get this up and running, but we could be working with the County and have this up and running theoretically by June and have essentially hopefully the same response. If it doesn’t work, then it could be reevaluated at that time.”
Thorpe reminded the council that the presentation they heard from CAHOOTS was just a framework and they were not picking models this evening. He wanted the council to see if a mental health team was a model they wanted, they would bring back later and talk about it.
Torres-Walker stated she was hoping the council could do something expeditiously to make sure no more people lost their lives.
Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock agreed with Barbanica that the county has been working on it and she also did not want to reinvent the wheel.
Mayor Pro Monica Wilson encouraged this topic to come back at the next meeting so they could have a larger discussion.
“Me personally, we can’t wait any longer,” stated Wilson. “We can’t sit here and do nothing. Whats going on with mental health has been going on for a half-a-century. It’s been going on since mental was defunded and taken away. This has been an issue a long time coming and needs to be addressed.”
The council voted 5-0 to move this forward.
Officer Training Enhancements/Modules
Thorpe told the council that he brought this forward because he wanted some principals that were community driven and around procedural justice and relationship based policing. He also admitted some of these things the police department already did, however, this was putting them as part of the framework in their training.
This training would include implicit bias training, crisis intervention, mediation, conflict resolution, appropriate engagement with youth, population specific with LGBTQ and gender non-conforming individuals, English learners, individuals with different religious affiliations and individuals who are differently abled and de-escalation and minimizing use of force training.
“I’ve yet to meet a good police officer that doesn’t want more trainings. So I fully support more training” stated Barbanica. “I know the officers support more training. I would just like to see the city staff work with the chief and administration with the police department to put together a training curriculum and let them have a voice in it.”
Torres-Walker argued she was for training, but that she has not heard from many people in law enforcement that the training actually works.
“Moving forward, I think the least interaction young people could have with law enforcement, especially negatively, is really important which is one of the reasons I don’t support police in schools. I would not support anything that would continue to put young people at risk or in the room when a department is current under reform,” stated Torres-Walker.
Councilwoman Ogorchock stated she was for this as long as they were working with the police chief.
The council voted 5-0 to give direction to establish a training paradigm that is publicly reviewed, that is updated regularly and to take into consideration the mayors outlined priority areas.
Demilitarization of Antioch Police
Thorpe called this item straight forward as there is a program within the Federal Government where they can either accept donated decommissioned equipment or purchase military equipment.
“I’ve never believed in that, so my request is that we ban the city from purchasing any further military equipment from the federal government,” stated Thorpe.
Barbanica stated he did not want a military force on the street, but said the availability of certain equipment can be helpful. He explained how many people have an issue with the MRAP (armed vehicle) but reminded people how things can escalate quickly such as the shots fired last week where they struck police vehicles and an AMR unit, the vehicle was used several years ago during a hostage situation at ARCO on Contra Loma. It was also used in an incident where an officer was shot in the head and they used to vehicle to pull people safely out of an area.
“I believe they do have an application, unfortunately, in todays society, officers sometimes are in a situation where facing a lot of fire power out there and we’re asking these individuals, these men and women to go into these situation in a very high risk situation, say SWAT call-out or something like that where there are armed individuals and I believe we have a duty to make sure that they and members of the public are protected,” explained Barbanica.
He reiterated he was not militarizing the police department but there were certain applications where they could be used.
Torres-Walker said that the militarization of the police on the streets was a direct stamp on the war on drugs and has devastated black communities and communities of color for decades.
“We should not be at war with our community, we should not be at war with our residnets. We should demilitarize our police, stop mismanaging our policing services, put resources where they are necessary so we can make our communities safe,” stated Torres-Walker. “We don’t want to see storm troopers on the ground in our community, we want to see community policing strategies that get at the root cause of violence.”
Ogorchock asked the police chief on how important the MRAP and if they paid for any of the equipment.
Chief Brooks explained all of the items they have received were free and the MRAP had a price tag of $700k and also was free. He said the MRAP is used on high risk search warrants and arrest warrants for people who typically pose a risk due to weapon violations and the knowledge they have as being currently armed and dangerous for crimes such as murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He said the vehicle is used approximately 10-15 times per year.
“The rescue vehicle is not an offensive vehicle. I’ve heard a couple people refer to it as a tank. Its actually on a chassis that’s built also for dump trucks and cement mixes, fire trucks, the body is military grade,” explained Brooks. “Its not a tank. Its not meant for offensive purposes. It provides a high level of ballistic resistance when officers are in situations in which they could face fire from people that we are trying to arrest in those high-risk situations.”
Ogorchock stated she believed the MRAP was very important to the department and they didn’t pay for it. She then asked the mayor to clarify what he was asking.
Thorpe responded by calling the MRAP a tank.
“This tank was designed for improvised explosive devices in Iraq. If that’s what we want on our streets, then I’m happy to discuss that,” Thorpe said.
Ogorchock responded by the chief just stating it wasn’t a tank and was something to be used to keep officers safe.
Wilson asked for clarification that what they were deciding tonight if they want to have a larger conversation.
Thorpe stated that what they would decide tonight would be to direct staff to come back with a policy that says the city of Antioch will no longer purchase military equipment. But they had the option to expanded it to say the city will no longer use current military equipment, I am more than happy to entertain that too.
“I definitely would like to have a larger conversation than this quick Friday night thing,” Wilson stated.
“Banning the use of military equipment in our city as well as the use of mutual aid, there have been police departments across this country that are providing mutual aid to each other, especially in Contra Costa County, where peaceful protesters, people in the community have been hurt, harmed, and almost killed, through mutual aid efforts” Torres-Walker said. “We should not be using military equipment on our streets or any other streets under mutual aid circumstances. We should definitely ban any purchase or acceptance of free military equipment. We shouldn’t be accepting any of that in our community.”
Torres-Walker asked if they could sell the tank because $700k could go to a lot of youth services as well as the mental health services.
Thorpe asked the council two things:
- To come back with a policy to no longer accept military equipment from federal, state or private.
- Hold a larger discussion around the current use of military equipment Antioch has.
Barbanica stated he believed, “this policy places officers potentially in the future at risk and its wrong.”
Thorpe shot back.
“I’d like to remind folks, military equipment wasn’t design for the local police department, it was designed for the military,” stated Thorpe who then called for the vote.
The council voted 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock dissenting on both items.
Increased Accountability and Transparency, including body worn and in vehicle cameras
Barbanica highlighted his firm belief that body cameras are very necessary and needed as soon as possible not only on the officers, but also the patrol cars—he also asked the council to include tasers.
“We don’t want to piece this together and the reason is because in a volatile situation, when an officer gets out of a car very quickly, there may be a time when they don’t press something, press a button on their camera, maybe their overheads aren’t on, so they weren’t automatically activated and if that’s the case upon use of a taser, which I want to clarify to the public, they are already have… this would create it where if an officer activated their taser, no matter what their body cam would automatically activate.”
He called for the whole spectrum of in the car, on the person and the use of a taser. This would allow the department to come back and look at the videos and called this a necessary tool that was long overdue.
After public comments, Councilwoman Ogorchock stated she was all for body cameras and they should have had them a while ago.
Torres-Walker was in full support of body cameras, dash cameras along with a strong policy for use, storage, and public dissemination of the video footage but was not supportive of tasers.
The council voted to move forward to approve and get direction for body worn cameras and vehicle cameras which passed 5-0.
Barbanica then wanted to discuss the idea around tasers because the police department already has tasers, but what they were looking to do was swap those out with technology that whenever its activated, it automatically turns on the body camera.
He requested tasers be included in the study.
Brooks highlighted they had old technology and they are reaching their end of life. The new tasers would also provided them with much more data and accountability for the officers use of force when they are deployed.
The council rejected tasers in a 2-3 vote with Thorpe, Torres-Walker and Wilson voting no.
Establishing independent review of on duty police officer complaints
Thorpe asked the council if they wanted to implement a requirement to require police officers to give civilians their name, badge number, reasons for the stop and a card which includes the process to file a complaint.
Ogorchock highlighted this item was not on her agenda and asked where it was.
Thorpe replied they were just bringing up ideas and this was just an idea that he had while everyone was welcome to bring in whatever.
Ogorchock argued if this was not on the agenda and that people in the public didn’t have an opportunity to speak on this, it should not be addressed.
Thorpe replied they just addressed tasers so they could address increased accountability and transparency.
The City Attorney highlighted in the context of police accountability reform, it is transparency and the measure he is talking about, which are disclosure of information on the police officer would be transparency and information and the scope was broad enough for direction.
That answer did not appease Ogorchock.
“With all due respect to both of you, I don’t think that was highlighted enough in this agenda,” stated Ogorchock. “Usually within our agenda packet, we have to stay within the boundaries of what’s noted on the agenda packet. So I am wasting my concerns about that but I don’t think that we are following the policy set forth”
Thorpe stated her concern was noted and they would continue the discussion on independent police oversight commission.
Chief Brooks explained the process of how complaints are handled:
- Complaint starts by someone filing a complaint (coming into PD, online, or a phone).
- Complaints then go through the Chief and routed to internal affairs or for some lower level complaints they go to supervisors to be investigated.
- Determine if the complaint is sustained, not sustained, exonerated, unfounded, or no finding.
- A letter gets sent to the complainant
- Officer could face discipline with complaint going in their file
Barbanica asked if the Chief could look at a complaint and do nothing.
Brooks stated every complaint that comes in, it gets investigated.
“I am satisfied with what chief Brooks is doing. Every complaint is investigated, theres no exception to that. The fact that he is hiring independent investigators that have nothing to do with the Antioch Police Department and even attorney’s office to handle these, I am very satisfied with what the chief is doing,” stated Barbanica.
Wilson asked for clarification of what they were discussing.
Thorpe stated it was two things, both an oversight committee and independent complaints.
“Again, we have heard people overwhelmingly say that, we’ve heard the public saying they want this,” stated Wilson. They don’t say I don’t like the police, they just want to have some transparency and be part of the review process. I would be for this.”
Torres-Walker asked for more clarification that if this was for establishing a civilian police oversight body that will also independently investigate or review police complaints.
Antioch’s City Attorney chimed in stating that staff could do the research on an oversight commission but it wouldn’t have the same power as a police commission but it could get status updates on complaints and in an advisory form make recommendations on things they are seeing and one of the most powerful functions of a commission is it creates a forum for people who feel uncomfortable going to the police department where they can instead be heard by residents to share their complaints—bad stories can turn into a complaint and it runs through the system.
Wilson stated that is the path she was looking at.
Thorpe replied that the investigations would always be a function of the city itself because Antioch was a general law city. This commission would be a way to route complaints in. He then stated if they are unhappy with that, maybe they go to a direction where it is independent and we’ll just create an office of police accountability for all complaints.
Barbanica suggested the police come back with a list of allegations that automatically trigger an independent investigation so its very clear at the public level what goes independent. He also suggested something the City of Vallejo does with a Police Chiefs Advisory Commission to work on issues and get direct feedback.
“I keep hearing this overwhelmingly remarks but what I’ve seen is a lot of outside influences that have been calling in and they don’t live herein our community, so I would rather say our community has input versus the outside entities,” stated Ogorchock who said they already have a police crime commission.
Councilwoman and Wilson and Torres-Walker suggested a police oversight commission as laid out by Antioch’s City Attorney.
Torres-Walker made a motion that the council act as a police oversight committee to review department policies with community input as needed and review and audit police complaints as well as review police use of force policies regularly and direct the city managers office and city attorneys office to work together to bring back and look into establishment of a civilian independent police oversight commission who have the potential duties to independent review police complaints and use of force.
She continued stating she wanted “investigation” in her motion because she was not hearing that tonight, only review and the police department is a city department that has lacked oversight and review which is why the city is where its at today.
She remade her motion at the request of the mayor.
She motioned that the city council operate in the interim as a police oversight committee to review police policies and to review police policies with community input as well as audit any and all police use of force.
The motion passed in a 3-2 vote with Barbanica and Ogorchock dissenting.
A second motion was made by Torres-Walker to direct the city manager and city attorney office to look into models of a civilian police oversight bodies to bring it back to the council for review and a vote. That motion passed 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock dissenting.
Wilson then made a motion that the city manager and city attorney work with he police chief on creating a policy on what he has started as procedure on independent investigations. That motion passed in a 4-1 vote with Ogorchock dissenting.
Police Hiring and Screening Practices
Thorpe suggested they look at some implicit bias test when hiring and that making it so that if anyone who is applying to be a police officer in Antioch, who’s currently under investigation for like excessive use of force or misconduct, cannot participate in our processes would be disqualified– or if they have a sustained use of force, excessive use of force, and excessive use of force or misconduct complaint on the records, they would be disqualified from our process.
Barbanica agreed that they did not want them hiring officers that have an open investigation for excessive force or hiring people who have a sustained investigation for excessive force or anything that is of that nature.
“I do think the implicit bias test is going to be very difficult because I don’t even know of a test or how you can even test that but did support that not hiring people who are under investigation,” stated Barbanica.
Wilson agreed with Barbanica but noted there has to be some model out there when it comes to implicit bias. She encouraged the council to go down that path.
Barbanica motioned that they move forward with a policy that Antioch will not hire police officers with an ongoing investigation or open investigation for use of force or sustained internal affairs investigation where it was deemed to have been an actual use of excessive force. Motion passed 5-0.
Wilson then motioned the city look at implicit bias test and if it exists and bring it back. Motion passed in a 5-0 vote.
The council then looked at the chiefs hiring process aiming to make it more transparent and inclusive of the community That motion to create a policy passed 5-0.
Notification protocols for major incidents
Thorpe explained that this is creating a process where city council members are notified of about certain major incidents—such as shootings, death in custody. This is currently a practice and not a policy so that this practice gets formalized so this communication gets out.
After public comments, Torres-Walker suggested they modify this to include the public and place it on the city managers report.
Wilson then made a motion to establish a notification system that clearly lays out what and when the mayor, council, city manager, city attorney and community is informed about major incidents.
The motion passed 5-0.
Resolution implementing a policy for the city, including all departments, regarding the selection of Attorney’s providing contract services, and the review, authorization and execution of all agreements and legal services and servers to be provided by attorney’s to the city
Thorpe explained this title is exactly what the city reads and clarifies around hiring of attorneys.
Torres-Walker made the motion that the city council adopt the item as is which passed 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock dissenting.