On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council, through its Antioch Police Oversight Standing Committee, made the recommendation to take control over the hiring of its next police chief.
Under the actions taken by the committee, it would change the Municipal Code and remove power from the city manager and transfer it to the city council as they would be the ones ratifying the contract of the next police chief, not the city manager.
Currently, Captain Tony Morefield is serving as the interim police chief after the retirement of Tammany Brooks. Brooks is now serving as deputy chief at the Boise Police Department.
Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal highlighted the current process in hiring the police chief.
- Work with HR to review and update job description and minimum qualifications for the position.
- If an in-house pool exists, determine whether an internal or external recruitment best serves city goals and agency needs.
- If an internal recruitment is the selected pathway, publish minimum qualifications open the application process and establish the candidate pool. Review applications and invite qualifying applicants to the interview process.
- If an external recruitment is the selected pathway, initiate the RFP process to solicit and select an executive search firm to conduct the recruitment. Once firm is selected, contribute to brochure content and work with firm to establish the overall timeline and approach. Once adequate applicant pool is achieved, review applications and identify candidates for interview.
- Utilize a panel interview format comprised of different audiences – city managers, public safety executives, department heads, police department personnel and community members.
- Once the panel interview process informs the ranking of candidates, City Manager interviews the topic candidates then extends conditional offer to the top candidate.
- Conduct a thorough background check which includes, credit history, criminal background, professional and personal references, neighbors. If an external candidate is selected, visit finalists current/last place of employment to gather additional information.
- Upon clearance of all conditions, make appointment and announce appointment.
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker stated she was leaning towards an “outside recruitment” and wanted a national search. She also wanted a diverse public panel with community members.
“The last meeting you said the city manager would make the initial offer on the candidate that rose to the top and then go through a process. I know historically, maybe in other cities or here, the city manager has had the authority to hire the chief solely, I would like to see a process where that authority is under the city council or a joint power with the city manager and have a discussion of what that would look like,” stated Torres-Walker.
During public comment, Antioch resident Harry Thurston said he had concerns over this process and urge the committee to consider an external process while encouraging the council to include at least 1-community member from each city council district to sit on the panel. He also agreed with a vote of the city council to approve the appointment of the next police chief.
Councilman Mike Barbanica stated for years the city of Antioch has had a “competent” city manager and assistant city manager, human resource director and the decision should remain with the city manager.
“Although I am all for public involvement in the process, but the ultimate decision still lies with the city manager,” said Barbanica. “It has been that way, that is the way our structure is set up, many cities are set up that way and I believe the structure should remain ultimately with the city manager.”
Mayor Lamar Thorpe said he was for public engagement but was not for the police chief to report to the city council noting it wasn’t wise.
“I do think that the contract should be finalized by the city council,” said Thorpe. “I absolutely believe that because there has to be some level of accountability for the five people elected to represent the public and there is no other role in the city that is more public than the chief of police position. I do believe the contract needs to be ratified by the city council just as every other managerial contract is ratified by community college district in the state of California and other jurisdictions.”
Thorpe referenced the City of San Jose for having a good community engagement when it comes to recruiting the chief of police in terms the community creating the job description, sitting in on community forums.
He was critical of the current process which is a screening process of department heads and called it unfair and not in-tune with what the city council is supposed to do in representing the entire city.
Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson stated community should be involved in the process while echoing comments made by Thurston in calling for one representative for each District. She also called for an external process.
Councilmember Lori Ogorchock stated the city manager has been responsible for this as the police chief is under the city manager and not the city council.
“I believe it still stays with the city manager. He hires all the directors and the directors have their hiring process through the human resources department,” stated Ogorchock.
Antioch City Attorney Thomas Smith said what the council would need to do is create an Ordinance as it will “fundamentally change the structure of the government as it exists right now and powers of the city manager.” The changes made by the council would be changing the Municipal Code which changes the authority of the city manager in relationship with the police chief.
Torres-Walker suggested they create an Ordinance that includes a list of items around hiring the police chief. This would be a recommendation through the body of this standing committee to be heard by the city council.
Thorpe stated this would be a “working draft” and did not foresee this going to the city council because they would not get to a “final version” until they piece the elements together.
Working Draft Outline
- External Recruitment: all five agreed to a national search
- District Representation: 1 community member from each City Council District. This will be discussed as an appointment versus an application process. This would be part of a search committee
- Will not be sole authority of City Manager to offer contract. Contract will now be ratified by City Council. City Manager can make the recommendation on the hire, the council can then say “yay” or “nay”. Police chief will not report to city council. This item was agreed to in a 3-2 vote with Ogorchock & Barbanica dissenting.
Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal provided the council with feedback on what they were asking.
“The last item discussed, structurally changes the relationship between the city manager and the police chief and the managers authority over that position by virtue of sharing the final decision for hiring. I just would caution the city council that it may seem like a good idea today with this seated council. But it could be problematic in the future depending on a different city council,” said Bernal. “So, I would just caution the city council about taking the full authority from the City Manager away which the city council has authority over and sharing that.”
Bernal and Smith will now work on creating an ordinance.
Note – the council did not discuss a process of who could fire the police chief under the new proposed process.
Wilson Named Chair of Police Oversight Standing Committee
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe began the discussion stating he had too much on his plate and did not want to be chair or vice chair.
“I am not interested in being the chair or the vice chair, but I think we have some capable people here who are more than capable of doing it,” said Thorpe. “I nominate councilmember Monica Wilson.”
Councilmember Mike Barbanica seconded the motion.
Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson thanked Thorpe for nominating her.
“This is a time I need to step up so I will go ahead and accept the nomination,” stated Wilson.
The committee voted 5-0 in favor.
To watch the full meeting: Click here