On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council voted 4-1 that now bans the police department from acceptance and/or acquisition of Surplus Military Equipment in the future in the City of Antioch.
This item is in response to the February 26 meeting where they discussed police reform and directed staff to proceed with specific measures. The Antioch Police Department can keep and use what it currently has, including its rescue vehicle, but nothing new in the future would be accepted.
According to the resolution:
“Whereas, the Antioch Police Department is an arm of local government whose primary purpose is to protect and serve all Antioch residents and visitors; and
Whereas, the City Council is committed to serving the whole community and its diverse residents, strengthening community ties and developing policy approaches that forge stronger community partnerships; and
Whereas, future acceptance or acquisition of surplus military equipment from Federal government, State government or private entities is not supported by the City Council and, therefore, the Antioch Police Department will discontinue future procurement of said items effective immediately”
March 23 Council Discussion
Councilmember Mike Barbanica highlighted how in the last 12-months the city has taken over 400 guns off the street and some of the guns were due to criminal investigations, some for safe keeping and some who were in mental crisis.
“We are taking over a gun a day off the streets in this city, with that, this equipment is free to the city number one. And number two, you can’t sell it. The government doesn’t allow you to sell it, its all free equipment” stated Barbanica.
Barbanica argued while the rescue vehicle is talked about, there are other things that the public may not be aware of such as a robot that can deliver a phone if you are negotiating with someone who has a hostage or in mental crisis rather than putting an officers life or a persons life. H
“Some sights for patrol rifles that we didn’t have to go out and buy, they were free. First aid kits, things like that. Range finders to determine distances. Those types of things, that is what we are talking about here,” said Barbanica. “The chief hasn’t gone out and ordered a bunch of weapons and outfitted these officers. This is more safety equipment for these officers and I think by doing this, we are talking the ability away from this chief and future chiefs to make those decisions to keep the officers within the community safe and the community safe as well. I think it’s a mistake.”
Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock asked if they could change this policy to be on a case-by-case basis and not saying “no to none”.
“I would ask we do this on a case-by-case and you have to ask the council,” stated Ogorchock. “I would hate to have a blanket across the board.”
Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker stated the last time we had this conversation she understood the police department had very little military grade equipment
“This says in the future and I think some of us remember the militarization of the police happened on the heals on the war on drugs and the devastation on communities, especially black communities, where the response to that was militarizing law enforcement and be able to steal peoples property and incarcerate people, criminalized people,” stated Torres-Walker. “But then when we have opioid addition becomes a crisis, we do treatment and we invest in that, we don’t militarize those communities because they suffer from an addition and we say its treatment.”
“This says future, if we do our jobs well, we won’t need a militarized police force in the future because we will be getting to the root problem of violence and meeting the needs of the community,” said Torres-Walker. “We are not the only community where hundreds of guns are being taken off the street. That is the result of lack of real enforcement around gun control and gun safety. Most people who acquired these weapons by breaking into your home and stealing your stock piles of guns and that is how this happens.”
She was encouraged by this item and hopes they could stop “tinkering around the edges” and begin working on the root cause of the violence in the community.
Mayor Lamar Thorpe stated officers do not go to the police academy to get trained for military equipment and every job they have to do they are trained to do without military equipment.
“Military equipment is not normal in police departments throughout the country. It is not the standard. Just as school resource officers are not the standard across the nation. Those are unusual aspects of policing” stated Thorpe. “In the past we have chosen to uplift those things, that it fine and we are at a different place now and we are choosing not to move in that direction anymore. I trust our police officers to do their jobs that they were trained to do without military equipment that was never designed for their work. It was designed for people who signed up to join the military and fight wars in foreign lands or here.
The council voted 4-1 on the motion with Barbanica being the dissenting vote.
Note – no questions of the Antioch Police Department were asked during the meeting.
Recap of the February 26 meeting when the council discussed its Demilitarization of Antioch Police:
Demilitarization of Antioch Police
Antioch Mayor Lamar 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.
Councilmember Mike 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.
Councilmemeber Tamisha 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 residents. 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.”
Councilmember Lori Ogorchock asked the police chief on how important the MRAP and if they paid for any of the equipment.
Chief Tammany 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.
Mayor Pro Tem Monica 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.
Rep. Johnson reintroduces bipartisan bill to de-militarize police
On March 9, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) re-introduced the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2021 that would place restrictions and transparency measures on the “1033 program,” which allows the Department of Defense (DOD) to transfer excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies.
The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would:
- Prevent transfers of equipment inappropriate for local policing, such as military weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, weaponized drones, armored military vehicles, and grenades or similar explosives.
- Require that recipients certify that they can account for all military weapons and equipment. In 2012, the weapons portion of the 1033 program was temporarily suspended after DOD found that a local sheriff gifted out army-surplus Humvees and other supplies. This bill would prohibit re-gifting and require recipients to account for all DOD weapons and equipment.
- The bill adds requirements to enforce tracking mechanisms that keep up with and control transfers of the equipment, implements policies ensuring that police agencies can’t surplus the equipment for resale, and defines drones more clearly.
For a copy of the bill, click HERE.