On Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council kicked off its first community forum on racial injustice and police reform where they heard more public comments on the topic. The city is calling this “Bridging the Gap”.
The forum comes after multiple local protests and a discussion on whether or not to have an ad-hoc committee or a larger forum for the community.
Mayor Sean Wright summarized what he heard Tuesday evening but was quick to point out he wanted to hear from the chief, but was pointed in a more open meeting by City Manager Ron Bernal.
“I was pushing with our city manager to have an hour with our chief of police and talking about some of the things that are being done and the reforms taking place and then taking an hour and hearing from members of our community of color so they can express their concerns,” explained Wright. “I said people have already spoken, we have heard, why are we going to go back and say it again. We had a lot of comments at the other meetings. I want to say thank you to our city manager for pushing the meeting into this direction. To stop and let’s have a discussion and not jump into what you think you heard, not jump into solutions, lets listen to the people.”
Wright said they could now have a discussion as a council of where this is going who said this was not the last meeting. He then read off a series of topics that he heard brought up during the public comments:
- Police reform
- Police community relations
- Community policing
- Officer beats
- Police citizens board
- Crime prevention commission is not enough
- Community oversight committee
- Mental health and police interaction
- Eight Can’t Wait Policies
- Demilitarize the police
- Removal of Officer Mellone, how was he hired, what are our hiring practices
- Removal of Officer Aiello
- Neighborhood watch
- Body Cameras
- Code of Conduct Program, including Social Media
- Listen and learn from both sides
- Trust and Mistrust
- Outreach to the community
- Website updates
- How do we better complain about our police department?
- Police expenses, budget
- Police department hiring processes
- Programs for youth and reinvest in other areas
- Use of force policies
- Data from our police chief
- Black Lives Matter
- 2015 Youth Intervention Study
Wright stated they could not address all these items in a single meeting, but now they can have meetings on these topics and address them—such as body cameras and the need, cost, and how to make it work. A meeting on an oversight committee and how it would work.
“Moving into this direction as not a way to escape a conversation, everything people wanted to talk about would still be covered,” stated Wright. “We would still have those discussions, it would just be with all of the council members listening and present so I still look forward to doing that and going into these topics in more detail.”
Councilmember Lamar Thorpe stated he had some serious concerns about over stretching the police department where they have gone in the direction of asking them to do more and didn’t think they should deal with that.
“I still think the five areas I initially captured are overarching in the things you pointed out and can populate into those headings,” said Thorpe.
Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock wanted to add a few additional items to the list that she heard which included:
- Community programs
- Condition of our parks
- Funding schools
- Superintendent of Schools at one of our meetings
- What does systemic racism in Antioch look like?
- Crime Commission going into their districts and finding out the issues
- Community wants to hear all
- Status quo is not right
- Parental workshops
- Working together
“we all need to work together. This is a priority for this council. We’re here tonight trying to work on these issues,” stated Ogorchock.
Councilwoman Monica Wilson admitted she too thought the meeting was vague coming into it and they owe it to the community to have an outcome.
“I appreciate all the comments from last week to now,” stated Wilson. “This is not just lip service; we are truly hear listening to all the things they have to say.”
She continued by saying the entire council at one point or another said Chief Tammany Brooks was doing a “wonderful job, but we can always do better” and how do we improve ourselves.
Wilson said they will hear a lot of overlap, but she heard a lot of requests for accountability, demilitarization, hiring practice, police oversight, police are not social workers, and body cameras
“At the end of the day, we need to look at outcomes and be very serious about this,” stated Wilson. “We have to come to the reality that not all of us are going to agree… we have to respect our differences.”
She hoped they could begin attacking some of the topics and have some good outcomes to make the community better as well as be heard.
Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts said she had doubts about not hearing from the police chief to speak to the comments over the past few weeks, but after hearing from the community was glad the meeting was set up the way it was.
Motts said that the mental health issue, there is need for support as its going on for decades.
Moving on into future agenda items, Mayor Wright again restated this could not be done in a single meeting and would need to break them down into six or seven meetings under different headings for more focused discussions.
Thorpe then stated they all wanted to hear from Chief Brooks but urged the actual leading of this conversation shouldn’t be led by the chief.
“I want to be very clear about that, I think we need an outside person to lead the conversation because the chief is the participant in all of this, not necessarily leading it, we are leading the change,” stated Thorpe. “I think there’s a curiosity of policing in American overall and this unique relationship with African Americans. There is a history there about why policing even started in this country, particularly in 1704. I think there is a historical perspective that will help lead into some of these discussions that will help people who generally just don’t understand what this is all about. Or have an interest in social justice and cannot pinpoint why in this country there is a unique instance where things blow up following interactions between police and African Americans.”
Wright stated he was going to suggest this evening they hire an outside facilitator to help them through the process.
Ogorchock brought up where in the budget a facilitator would come from in which City Manager Ron Bernal stated it would come out of the General Fund.
Motts agreed that they should bring someone from the outside to help moderate the conversation while highlighting she liked the conversation Thorpe discussed which included racial injustice and the history.
Wilson suggested they hire someone with a background in social justice and race relations with police. Thorpe urged for someone with experience with police reform. Meanwhile, Ogorchock suggested someone who is “well-rounded”. Wright stated he wanted someone respected on both sides from the police department to someone trying to create police reform—someone neutral.
Wright stated the next step was to find a facilitator to work on future meetings and what discussions will come back.