Per its usual self, the Antioch City Council can never seem to pick the path of least resistance as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot. This council continually opts to pick the most difficult course of action that will ensure plenty of bumps and bruises along the way. In what should be an opportunity for conversation that is both engaging and informative from all perspectives, it has turned into all out political warfare.
On Friday, the Antioch City Council announced it would hold a special meeting to discuss the creation of a police reform ad-hoc committee that would seek to tackle: use of force, elimination of military equipment, require use of conflict de-escalation, police accountability, improve police officer candidate recruitment, and budget appropriations.
All are worthy items to discuss and should be discussed in a PUBLIC SETTING with all five councilmembers, the police department, the crime commission, community stakeholders, faith-based leaders, and residents. Instead what is being proposed by Councilmember Lamar Thorpe is a discussion hidden away from public view in an ad-hoc committee where the agenda and direction can be easily rigged for a desired outcome.
With everything going on in this country, the community deserves as much transparency and visibility as possible. Not continue to operate in the shadows.
I can applaud Thorpe for bringing to the “8 Can’t Wait” discussion to Antioch because it should be discussed because no police department is perfect, but that is where my support ends. After that, he has completely fumbled his honorable call for action and now has created an “us vs. them” mentality whereas both the City of Brentwood and City of Pittsburg have embraced discussions that have included everybody and anyone who wishes to participate.
Last Monday, Thorpe jumped the gun by issuing a press release calling for an ad-hoc committee to discuss the “8 Can’t Wait” claiming police had only enacted two of the eight. This prompted Police Chief Tammany Brooks to issue his own release stating the department currently has implemented five of the eight—it later was confirmed Thorpe had been made aware of this information two days before issuing his press release and apparently felt like misleading the public, perhaps to allow the community to get riled up to continuing protesting and support his propaganda.
What then transpired was Thorpe following through with his Ad-hoc committee request which Mayor Sean Wright put out the agenda—this then prompted the Antioch Police Officer Association to issue a statement blasting both Thorpe and councilmember Monica Wilson.
Rather than angle for yet another ad-hoc committees and play politics, what Thorpe should have been doing in his council position was gather information and educate the public so they could make an informed decision on what change they seek. Instead, Thorpe manipulated peoples emotions to both stir the pot for his own political gain to stack the deck of public speakers who cry foul against the police department.
For example, many do not know the number of citizen complaints against Antioch Police have decreased over the past three years while call volume has gone up. Here is a look at the numbers:
- 2019 27 (0.03% of total calls for service – 94,670)
- 2018 33 (0.04% of total calls for service – 88,123)
- 2017 47 (0.05% of total calls for service – 89,321)
Furthermore, many have called for the police department to represent the community. Chief Brooks said Saturday that one-third of the sworn officers belong to a minority group.
What is sad in this whole public shaming of police is the Antioch Police Department and the great strides they have made since 2012 is being punished all because of an incident in Minnesota—an incident that has nothing to do with them or most California Police Departments.
I just do not see how because of some poor excuse for a police officer in Minneapolis can result in the Antioch Police Department taking heat or threatened with being de-funded? In speaking to many officers across Contra Costa County across multiple departments, I have not found one cop who will defend what transpired in Minneapolis. In fact, many have called it disgusting, want his badge and he be thrown in jail—they truly do hate bad and dirty cops.
Many cops across East County have admitted they want to do better and are willing to listen to constructive criticism by the public of how to get there. But we have to remember where we were locally a decade ago, not worry about incidents that do not even apply to California because our state sets the bar in both policy/laws and training.
I get it, emotions are high right now, but some are quick to pass judgement because its the easy thing to do. Some forget or may be unaware of what 2012 was like. The Antioch Police Department was already defunded once before by the Great Recession which dropped them down from 124 police officers to just 78. Antioch was the poster child for the Wild West and it was not pretty.
In fact, some forget that at one point Antioch was ranked the 4th most dangerous city in California. Since that time, Antioch has dropped down on the list and even out of the top 20.
Antioch residents demanded more officers and tackle violent crime… so much so they passed not one, but two tax revenues specifically to hire police—which Thorpe now admits on Measure W he worked to de-fund police by taking some of that money for homeless and youth/senior services.
Furthermore, if you go back to pre-Measure W, it was both Thorpe and Wilson who nearly killed the Measure by playing politics because they did not get more funding for social services over police. The rest of the council corrected that error in judgement.
The result of Measure W, it passed with 66% of the vote and has led to a reduction in crime. Violent Part I crime has reduced 14.7% (2016 vs. 2019) while Property Part I crime has reduced 13.3% (2016 vs. 2019). You can even go back further to 2012 where Violent Part I crime has reduced 39.3% (2012 vs. 2019) while Property Part I crime has reduced 32.8% (2012 vs. 2019).
For context, history does matter!
Furthermore, with just 78 officers, there is not a lot of outreach that could be done between the police department and the community because officers were running from call to call. But since Measure W, look at what programs have been added to improve transparency and interaction to build trust:
- Citizens Academy
- Youth Academy
- Coffee with the Cops
- Christmas Giveaway Program
- Trick-or-Treat with Antioch PD
- Getting back into Antioch Unified Schools for Demonstrations
- Increased social media presence (FB, IG, NextDoor, Twitter)
- Implemented Text to 911
- Established Business Watch
- Implemented Narcan program (to date more than 12 lives saved)
- Expanded Community Camera program (E. 18th/Cavallo and Lone Tree/Deer Valley)
- Established Drone program
- Alive at 25 Program
- Youth Citizens Academy
It is hard to ignore the huge strides being made in both number of officers, policy, building community trust and open discussion. And by the way, let us not forget that it was only several months ago where the community was calling for even more police because people felt like the schools were unsafe after a fatal shooting at Deer Valley High School. Where did that discussion go?
It is really a shame that one bad incident halfway across the country is being used as a weapon for a councilmember to radically forever change the way Antioch Police operates.
This proposed ad-hoc committee is not about a discussion on police interaction or race relations, it is aimed to fundamentally allow the city council to micromanage the police department through policy—all behind the scenes and in the shadows and without any experience in law enforcement.
For that reason alone, that is why this discussion should all be in public and in front of anyone who wishes to participate or observe. Ultimately, if Thorpe was so considered about transparency and wanting the public aware of Antioch Police activities, he would be calling for the police department to turn back on the scanners. But he conveniently left that off his list.
One thing to also consider in all this, Antioch City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith serves on the Oakland Police Commission which could be a model being pushed here in Antioch – given the failure of that commission and the decisions he has made there, it has resulted in the City of Oakland being sued by its former Police Chief. If that is the end game, no thanks!
Lets also not forget that Antioch has a Police Crime Commission. Why have they not been approached? Where are they in bringing up complaints from residents? Since they are in the community, wouldn’t they have firsthand knowledge of what residents want changed or desire?
Enough with political games, what the City Council needs to focus on is creating the most transparent and open process as possible for everybody to have an extremely uncomfortable discussion on race relations in our community, not stack the deck behind the scenes to push an agenda.
Here are three things I would like to see occur to push better transparency versus an ad-hoc committee:
- Public forums on racial bias (not just police, but everybody) which is something we should all be challenging ourselves on when looking in the mirror. Through a series of these forums, figure out exactly what the public desires and find ways to execute so we can overcome these biases. Again, if this is so important to the community, then it needs to be all public, all recorded and all five councilmembers participate.
- Increase public education on police use of force by holding a “use of force day” to let members of the community run through a series of scenarios. Give them a first hand experience of what police deal with on a daily basis.
- Borrowing an idea from Pittsburg City Councilmember Merl Craft, create a regional approach to racial bias involving all cities in East Contra Costa County to determine how across the entire region race relations can be improved. These actions should then be passed on to our state officials to change state and federal law as needed—this can begin that process of change people may desire.
I understand people are angry at what has transpired, I am angry and pissed off, but we have to begin having open and transparent discussions on topic that are both uncomfortable and eye-opening in terms of self-awareness both in person and online. We can all do better and those who disagree are only fooling themselves.
What Antioch has in front of them is a gimme and they need to stop making it so darn difficult. They have an opportunity to remove the politics ahead of the upcoming election and instead do what is best for not only the community, but an entire movement, an opportunity at change and an opportunity to simply do better.
Being divisive and self-serving helps nobody while hurting everybody.
Publisher of ECT