On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council voted to rescind approval of a grant that would provide six school resource officers for schools within the Antioch Unified School District.
The vote was 3-2 with councilmembers Mike Barbanica and Lori Ogorchock dissenting. Within the vote, the council also voted that with the funds saved on the grant, it would be reallocated to youth services.
The School Resource Officer Grant was approved over the summer by both the Antioch City Council and the Antioch Unified School District in contentious 3-2 votes by both elected bodies—who agreed to split the $3.2 million cost.
According to the agenda, the council on Tuesday has the following three options:
- The City Council can adopt a resolution rescinding its acceptance of the US Department of Justice COPS grant.
- The City can reduce the number of SRO’s
- The City Council can opt to take no action
It was announced in June that the Antioch Police were awarded the $750k grant from the US Department of Justice COPS hiring Program which would cost the city an estimated $125,667 per police officers for a total of $754,002 for six positions—which would be split with the Antioch Unified School District.
For Tuesdays meeting, the city received 210 public comments submitting with 82 comments being the same.
Barbanica explained that the school resource officers have always been around until the economic downturn in 2007-08 that this came into question. The city and school district had to cut costs and made cuts. He also highlighted the stories of school resource officers in the past, the positives and the building of relationships between law enforcement and students.
He said he spoke with every principal and the Superintendent even sharing one administrator who said staff doesn’t feel safe and many times they reach into a backpack and pull guns out.
“This grant was in partnership with the Antioch Unified School District because teachers wanted it, administrators wanted it, I did not talk to one school administrator who did not want it,” stated Barbanica. “Overwhelmingly they want this grant, they want the school resource officers.”
He continued saying people wanted this not for the enforcement part, but to have and build relationships with the kids to grow with the kids and be a mentor.
Barbanica shared how officers were selected. He said it was explained that officers had to submit a letter of interest, take an oral board which was made up of police administrators, school principals, teachers union representatives and students. He then ran through bios of the officers.
- Officer Kendall – African American male who grew up in east Oakland. His mom is a teacher, father a preacher while he and his wife started WIMP (Weapons in Minors Possession) to help educate and raise awareness of damages caused by weapons. He works with youth at his church and coaches youth basketball.
- OfficerAllen – white female in 20’s, grew up playing sports, coached youth sports teams and mentored youths, features in Share Blue Smiles for working with school age girls.
- Officer Saffel – African American male in 30’s, grew up on military base. High School he met an SRO who helped guide him in life challenges (suicide of father, wife’s addition to narcotics where she was eventually arrested and now a single father)
- Officer Aguilar – bilingual male in his 30’s. Came to Antioch from El Cerrito where he was an SRO and created a cross country running team. Grew up in East Oakland.
- Officer Tanguma – Hispanic male in 30’s, Senior Year in HS he worked on projects where he adopted and worked younger students who were to enter into HS, coached youth football.
- Officer Blumberg – white male in 40s. Worked as paramedic and EMT. He was a preceptor and worked with students and interns to teach them jobs. Coaches youth swimming, water polo and is a cadet advisor for city of Antioch.
Barbanica stated that 5 of the 6 officers are those of color while 5 of the 6 schools are principals of color all of which represents the community.
“I went into this wanting to truly learn. I didn’t want to go into this saying I support this and I am going to search for the narrative,” stated Barbanica. “I called these people up individual and told them to tell me where their support is of the program. They are telling us this is drastically needed, this is what the principals are telling me.”
Thorpe then tried to interrupt Barbanica saying he wanted to give the rest of the council time.
Barbanica continued explaining that after the murder at Deer Valley High School, other schools did not want to come to Antioch for sporting events saying the city has no police presence.
“For me, this is not an issue of money, I know we have to be fiscally responsible, the city is getting a $750k grant and over a 4-year period we are going to pay out $377k, the school district as well and we pick up the cost on the 4th year, with that, I urge the council to really consider not what I am saying, not what the officers are saying, but what a 137 years of service by these educators are saying, they want this,” stated Barbanica.
Tamisha Torres-Walker shared her condolences who has lost of a loved one to community violence and acknowledged there has been a challenge in communities sharing the loss of her brother to gun violence.
Torres-Walker shared she believed that violence spills over into the schools and that the first priority should be making their streets safer and more secure.
“its unfortunate we are afraid of our young people, I’ve heard a lot of fear mongering, young people are dangerous we are afraid, it seems like the adults around young people are afraid of them. Rather than seeing themselves as someone who can provide an opportunity to a young person who is potentially struggling because they lack resources in their community and then lack resources in schools to address trauma that they experience,” stated Torres-Walker. “I would argue if we did our job in the community, we wouldn’t be having this conversation around school safety. Someone says if this vote goes either way, the blood is on our hands. I would say the blood has been on our hands because we have not done anything about violence in the community. We haven’t done anything about racial disparity, equity and bringing resources to black indigenous people in this city.”
She highlighted she had a conversation with the police chief and that the department needs transparency and bring the department up to scale, but this was not the way to do it.
She was also critical of the committee between the City Council and Antioch School Board who should have come together to solve safety issues in the schools and the community – but it took George Floyd being choked in the street and national protests during a pandemic to get people to understand they needed to do things differently.
Walker-Torres appreciated the language in the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) but was quick to point out she knows what they say on paper sometimes is not what it looks like in practice. She also thanked Barbanica for highlighting the six officers that were potential for the program.
“I also want to acknowledge that I am happy they are on the police force. I am glad we have them as a resource. Right now, in the skills they have are not limited to becoming an SRO, they can use those skills in the community and use them right now through quality comprehensive policing,” stated Walker-Torres.
She closed by saying this was not the role of the city council.
“This vote should have never come before the city council. This is something that should have been handled at the level of a school board. I’ve seen school district contract police officers for safety but through their own budgets, but I have never seen a city decide without having the school district having discussions with students and parents. This could have all been mitigated before we even got here. I think it was insensitive to bring this vote to the council in the first place in this political climate and at a time when people with dark bodies are saying we will not stand for it anymore,” said Walker-Torres who said she hoped to work on future grants that do not put the community in opposition.
Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock stated she had spoken to Superintendent Stephanie Anello and confirmed that all the principals at the high schools and middle schools wanted the SRO’s and it was important for them to have them—noting this wasn’t a light process to select the officers.
Ogorchock also highlighted the youth were involved and had a say in the officers who were hired.
“These officers are really looking forward to working with our youth of Antioch and looking froward to being in the schools,” stated Ogorchock. “They have ideas that they want to put forth.”
Ogorchock touched on those who brought up counselors, all those individuals got their jobs back and they have 34-counselors. The other sticking point by councilmembers during the last discussion was mental health clinicians, the AUSD got a grant and now has 14 mental health clinicians in the schools.
After the death at Deer Valley, Ogorchock reminded her follow council members that meetings were held and parents came out demanding SRO’s back in the schools.
Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson stated they needed to hear both sides of this story because what works well for one group, is not working for another. But they need to better look at the different kinds of trauma and experiences with the youth is going through. She called the 14 metal health clinicians a start but it was not enough.
“We really need to look at not only short-term solutions, but long-term solutions that is going to set our community up as a whole for a success. Is it the SRO’s, I don’t know. But we are hearing overwhelming in the community that people are struggling and mental health is a major issue and people need those resources to address what is going on,” explained Wilson who added they needed counselors who understood wrap around services.
Wilson stated she believed they needed more mental health and trauma experienced individuals in the schools and said she still feels the same as she did in August.
Mayor Lamar Thorpe stated he didn’t believe anyone on the council was playing politics with this issue and told the community this council takes all of the issues very seriously.
“To our young people, there was a commenter that said when did kids tell us what to do, I thought to myself, that is the problem that we keep looking at our young people with contempt,” stated Thorpe who said we should be listening to our youth and let them voice their opinions on every issue.
Thorpe was critical of Ogorchocks comment on student success.
“I am aware of student success. Just to remind folks, 72% of students at Antioch schools are part of the free and reduced lunch program. 30% are English learners. When seniors graduate, only 23% of students are prepared to go to a 4-year college or university. On the reading scores, 49% of our students don’t meet the state standards, put differently on average students were 52.1 points below meeting state standards. Mathematics, 60% of our students don’t meet state standards. Put differently, 93.9 points below meeting the state standard. So that’s to me that our teachers need all the help that they can get,” stated Thorpe. “Every once of support we can give them. In 2018, I will remind everybody, the school districts director for site safety retired and that position was then eliminated. In march of 2019, the school district cut $4 million from its budget.”
Thorpe continued by saying they cut librarians, aids, career techs, custodians and more while stating he was the only one from the council to go to the meeting and beg them not to make these cuts because these are the resources teachers need in the classroom to enhance the outcomes.
He continued, saying in May of 2019 the school district cut $1.8 million from its budget—cut library techs, the one homeless liaison serving 300 plus children, career techs, the bilingual aids.
Two months later, the city and school district get together to spend $1 million on 6 school resource officers after all the cuts being made stated Thorpe.
“In addition to that, COVID-19 has made learning very difficult. There is increased costs across all of California where they are spending millions,” stated Thorpe who highlighted the digital divide which the school district was begging for laptops. “But somehow, we can get 6 positions in school resource officers.”
Thorpe says this was not free money and it’s a $250k grant that comes annually for 3-years which the school district and city has to pay close to a million a year while the school district mysteriously found after making all these cuts.
“There are other ways, absolutely other ways to achieve school safety. Just as there are ways to increase student success,” stated Thorpe who chastised his fellow council for “mysteriously talking to the school district” stating he had already been talking to them through the ad-hoc and the ACES program which includes wait lists at schools.
Thorpe called this a “hypocrisy” because there are real needs that parents, teachers, classified employees and school district needs and they needed to be smart with resources noting he felt the same as the last vote.
Torres-Walker said he heart was heavy tonight as she has experienced violence and has been scared, but believed they could get to where they want to be if they can do it together and can recover after what happens tonight—but wanted to think strategically on how to make the community safer.
Barbanica reminded the council that the school district budget is not the City of Antioch’s, it’s a separate budget and they allocated their funds to them.
Thorpe said he points out the school district budget because as a “dad it frustrates me in their spending priorities. It absolutely frustrates me.”
Wilson then made a motion to rescind the funding, but recommended they move the funding to youth services.
City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith stated Wilson could not attach the youth service spending because it was not included in the agenda item and it would have to occur in a future agenda. Wilson then corrected her motion stating she motioned to rescind the funding of the COPS grant.
The council then voted 3-2 with Barbanica and Ogorchock dissenting.
Another mistake from a highly disfunctional city government.
Torres-Walker doesn’t get it, she is basically making the chicken or the egg argument. Either school safety or community safety. This was a National Grant, it could have done both! Very short sighted by the council. She does not understand the police chief and superintendent did work together on this grant and the chief would not go out for a grant without support of the school district requesting it. Lame vote and shame on her.
Another stupid comment by Monica Wilson who has no business being on the city council. What does she even know about schools? Next to nothing. She is simply throwing out clever programs because she has nothing to stand on. Measure W was implemented how many years ago? Why is she just now proposing money go to school programs? She is useless.
Maybe she should spend her time memorizing the pledge of allegiance which she forgot during the meeting. Seriously people, go watch it, 10:14 seconds into the meeting. Its embarrassing. https://www.antiochca.gov/government/city-council-meetings/12-15-20/
Thank you for including the officer bios, that really helps me understand who was going to be placed in our schools. My only hope now is that other police departments do not poach these officers away from Antioch. This council is horrible. Lamar Thorpe has to be one of the worst mayors the city has ever had and he is what, two whole meetings into his mayoral career?
So 3 of the new counsel members think having SRO’S in schools is a bad idea. Looks like Antioch is far from the city I was born and raised. I will be leaving in April 2021.
I am an Antioch citizen of over 40 years and I fear this is just the beginning of another failed Mayor and City Council in my city. We had officers in our schools when I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s when the city was smaller and safer and it was never a problem. This is the wrong decision.
Let’s see, Brentwood has SRO’s, Pittsburg has SRO’s, Oakley as well…along with several other agencies in the Bay Area. None are there to be oppressive or dictators at the schools. None of them are creating a ‘pipeline to incarceration’. I have several family members and friends who interact with these SRO’s with there kids at these various schools. All of the interactions are positive!! Not one negative things ever mentioned. The kids at these schools all live their SRO’s and often invite them to their proms, balls, and special events. Sometimes they even buy them gifts or welcome them at their lunch tables. These officers working in these SRO positions are a special breed. Like all Ofc’s at this end of the county, they are there to help and support, not suppress and hold back the citizens.
Look at the bios of these that were selected for these now defunct positions. They are all talented and the perfect fit for there selected positions. The Chief and his Admin made amazing selections from an amazing department for these spots.
Everyone is blown the Mellone situation out of proportion not know the facts or the legality of any recommendations made by an uneducated review panel. If one took the time to review the facts and not follow these uneducated individuals putting out their own personal beliefs, yea you Shagoofy and clan…then their this Mayor and his slackers!! They have no experience and are pushing their own personal agendas and not those for the ones who blindly elected them. Antioch is so screwed and only taking more steps backwards. Like the mayor and another member wearing propaganda during official events.
So glad my kids do not have to endure the mess Antioch has become and will continue to be. How is the Mayor can pass opinions when he himself doesn’t even send his old kids to the schools he is trying to control?
On top of that, AUSD is a separate entity from the City of Antioch. I encourage the PD to work with AUSD and get things done while passing over the idiot trio in the counsel. Only Barbanica and Orogchock understand the facts and don’t have personal agendas…
Antioch is Screwed!!!!
The leaders formed a bloc long before the election,to undo the safety plans put in place by the previous council. Will they defund the police next? Who will you call when a another student is injured or killed? The SROs have been an indispensable part of keeping the peace in our schools,by mediating,and counseling,and diffusing potentially dangerous situations. If any of you were here like the rest of us have been,you would know that. Sad judgement indeed.
Antioch is doomed!!!!!!
They elected a black panther and here’s the recourse. Guess you shouldn’t of elected someone who cares about minorities only and hates white people and the police. Crime is about to go up in Antioch more than it already is.
I just have to ask, who is the editor? I can see how poorly our education is when this article is poorly proofread. Such errors as metal instead of mental and once instead of ounce is unacceptable. Please use spell and gramar check prior to publishing.
Such great comments… Can you explain hiring Mellone?? Couldn’t find a cop not about to be disciplined in homeless killing case??
Hello ‘There Went the City’, you racist. He is not a ‘black panther’. That is a racist dog whistle, you racist. He doesn’t hate white people. He hates white cops murdering black men, as you should, too, you racist. He likes Bernie, so how does he hate white people?? Man, you’re ignorant. Also… you meant ‘result’, not ‘recourse’. You meant ‘have’ instead of ‘of’. Be cool, stay in school; learn to spell. P.S. I’m a middle-aged white male who thinks Black Lives Matter, tRump has ruined our country, and that you are a racist, you racist.
Monica personally said that she is proud of the work (trying to make herself look good) she has done to reduce human trafficking, and explain how sex traffickers goes ONTO high school campus to recruit. …and she is against SRO’s (trying to make herself look good as anti-cop)? She seriously showing us how intelligent he is!
Wan’t the homeless guy wielding a knife endangering other people and the cops…and the bean bag shot gun did not do a thing to him. I thought at this time S.F. PD did not allow its officers to have tasers…so if the bean bag shot gun did not work…you would have to switch to a handgun…or do we expect a cop to switch to a baton?
Wasn’t he cleard by S.F. PD, the DA’s office, a citizen oversight committee, and another group?
What does this mean “black indigenous people ” ? Honestly if u want to mention indigenous people of Antioch you should give resources to families that have lived here for at least 30 years . My grandmother and my family lived in a house since 1956 in Antioch, and we have seen all the new lovely out of town citizens move in and ruin this once great town.
Did that new chick, the one who set fire to a fourplex, try to burn down the Council Chambers yet?
bet you used to jack off looking at your poster of Barack Hussein Obama
i’ve never heard of a student feeling safe around an SRO and I’ve never met anyone that would like to have a cop as a mentor. The potential SRO’s sound like amazing people and they could greatly contribute as mentors, just not as officers.
Hey JOHN BROWN! Show me the law which states it is against the law to be a RACIST? People can be whatever they want to be. We have Freedom o Speech and Expression, in case you forgot! People have their reasons for having certain attitudes and there is not one thing YOU can do about it, pal!
Get rid of Thorpe, Wilson and Walker and replace them with people with some smarts! What in hell has Tamisha Walker done to her hair! Looks like it’s on fire! Maybe she back in her “ARSONIST” mode!
The three who voted to rescind the COPS grant, free money from the US Department of Justice, are total morons! They should be gotten rid of. They are endangering our children’s lives. When the virus has diminished and schools open up again, I’m sending our 5 kids to private schools! No more government schools for them and the problems those schools bring!
Are these three people who voted to rescind that money totally stupid or what? Let’s what happens when kids get beaten up — or worse — in these schools. I’ve seen how schools are conducted in Japan, Russia and other countries and they don’t need SRO’s because the kids are brought up to respect their elders, especially teachers and no one ever pulls any stunt or they know they will be OSTRACIZED!
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