For the 4th time, the City of Antioch has declined to release Antioch Police Department body camera video of an incident involving councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker. This decision does nothing to build public trust or increase transparency regardless of the words coming out of the Antioch City Council’s mouth.
The public should be appalled because on one hand members of the city council call for greater transparency while at the same time not giving it back to the community when it involves them.
The incident occurred on Oct. 3, 2021 when police responded to noise complaints and shots fired—police located several casings in front of her home. Police said they were met by what appeared to be an intoxicated homeowner (Torres-Walker) who refused to cooperate while stating “Antioch Police could not be trusted”. Ultimately, she was charged with a Misdemeanor, a violation of PC148(a)(1), Resist, Obstruct, Delay Of Peace Officer Or EMT.
On Sept. 1, 2022, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office announced they dismissed the case while citing in the Interest of Justice or Furtherance of Justice (PC 1385).
The District Attorney’s Office has offered no reason or comment beyond their initial release and its unclear if Torres-Walker is receiving preferential treatment after donating to the District Attorney’s Political Campaign. However, I’ve confirmed that at least one unnamed officer involved in the FBI investigation responded to Walkers home that night, but its unconfirmed if this was the reason for the case being dropped.
With the case dismissed, a public records request for the body camera footage was requested on September 1. On Sept. 13, the Antioch City Attorney declined to release the video.
Here is a look at the dates of requests:
- Sept. 1, 2022 – declined
- Aug 3, 2022 – declined
- Nov 10, 2021 – declined
- Oct 4, 2021 – declined
Again, apparently transparency for the city of Antioch applies to only the police department, not the city council.
The irony with the decision not to release the video by city hall is it actually creates more hysteria and political grandstanding by a council who are more focused on ramming through an agenda based on premature facts, multiple accusations and simple hearsay than by a need–as in manufactured crises.
Take the FBI investigation as one example, all we know at this time is 10% of Antioch Police Officers are under investigation for possible crimes of “moral turpitude”. While these accusations and the investigation are very serious, we have to remember that no one has been charged to date. Yes, the accusations are disturbing. Yes, bad cops should be removed from the force, jail time is likely for some, and this will play itself out within the law. That said, its not an excuse for the council behavior to act and say one thing in front of a microphone or video camera only to do another when its applied to them.
Furthermore, it can be argued that trying to solve a problem before knowing what the problem actual is revealed is foolish. How does one create and implement policy before the FBI findings are released? What a giant waste of staff time. Imagine working on a policy based on hearsay and it turns out to not be a policy related to the FBI investigation.
This premature policy making that three members of the city council are doing is textbook grandstanding–or, perhaps the mayor is using privileged information ahead of an District Attorney and FBI investigation findings to push an agenda–either way, it doesn’t pass the smell test and isn’t very transparent.
The funny part in all of this, we all probably would agree with the policy changes should the council ever decide to be more open and transparent versus the appearance of political gain. But to move forward with partial information and hearsay with the public in the dark is terrible leadership.
Take Tuesdays Press Conference with Antioch Councilmembers Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres Walker for example who introduced three new use of force policies after an East Bay Times article.
The items for future discussion include:
- K9 deployment policy
- Early intervention strategy to track and monitor use of force by officers
- Cell phone policy on city issued phones
While this announcement was not press conference worthy and instead basically used as a political stump speech ahead of an election, I could not agree with them more. These are great suggestions to take to committee. These items are worth the discussion and policies can always be improved and implemented if they make sense and are legal.
I know I don’t want a K9 officer unleashing his dog if not warranted nor do I want officers using unnecessary use of force. The issue then becomes what is exactly crossing the line because we all have different tolerance levels.
My only concern with cell phones, however, is it could be problematic because how do you handle calls with witnesses, informants or sensitive information that should never be made public. Or, is it even legal to begin with? Would it apply to all of Antioch staff or just police? Imagine any communication between councilmembers and the general public. The council is opening up a can of worms I don’t think they realize is about to occur.
Not to get off topic here, but going a step further the Antioch Police Department found evidence that implicates Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe and City Clerk Ellie Householder who potential engaged criminal conduct and Brown Act Violations–this came off cell phone regards in an arson investigation. Of course, the FBI and DA didn’t pursue the case–the sames FBI and DA who are now investigating Antioch Police, go figure! So the cell phone policy will be a big task.
I say knock yourselves out with these three topics.
Back to Wilson and Torres-Walker.
So with this press conference, now enters hypocrisy and double speak by Wilson and Torres-Walker who talk about public trust:
“How can we expect our community to work with us to both prevent and solve crimes if we are not holding ourselves accountable. Although I am proud of the reforms that we have implemented to date, there is no denying that we continue to have a lot of work to do as the issues within the department have been unchecked for decades.” — Monica Wilson.
“Do I believe in doing so we can create an environment of openness and transparency that will allow for the officers who are not under investigation to continue to do great work in our community by building trust. I absolutely do believe that by releasing the names of all the officers under investigation currently in the city of Antioch, it will increase transparency and public trust. Yes, I do believe that,” — Tamisha Torres-Walker.
I couldn’t agree more with both of them on transparency, which is why the body camera footage should be released.
Instead, transparency apparently only applies to the Antioch Police Department, not the Antioch City Council as the city attorney Thomas Smith is withholding the body camera footage involving Torres-Walker. First it was because the incident was under investigation, now some bizarre legal Mumbo Jumbo that will not hold up in court.
The city attorney knows this, but by the time a legal letter is sent, this goes to court, a judge orders the release, the November 8 Election will be over and Torres-Walker will not have to deal with this footage during a campaign timeline.
Quite frankly, this Antioch city attorney is starting to make slip-and-fall attorneys look like model citizens.
The irony here, when it comes to police shootings, use of force, k9’s and other police activity, body camera footage are typically released rather quickly — even before or during trials. But this one, involving an elected official, doesn’t apply as “public interest” and is considered “privileged”.
Anyone elected should understand if the police come knocking, body camera footage will be released. It should be that simple. In fact, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica has called for the release of the video. District 1 candidates Diane Gibson-Gray and Joy Motts have called for the video to be released.
What Are they Hiding?
By failing to release the video, the question now becomes what is on the video that the city attorney, police chief, mayor and council does not want the public to see? The assumption is that either Torres-Walker said something or did something that would likely cause her to have to resign or would hurt her chances at re-election.
Remember, the mayor cannot lose his third vote or he can’t continue to ram down policy like has been doing the past two years.
Did Torres-Walker use her position as a councilmember to intimidate, threaten or harm Antioch Police Officers? Did she threaten the jobs or pensions of officers on scene? Regardless of the misdemeanor being dropped, did Torres-Walker act in a way that would cause the public to decide she has no business severing in an elected capacity? Who knows?
If she is claiming Antioch Police are targeting her, why wouldn’t this video be released in the name of transparency? If police are truly targeting her, then its time to boot those cops too on top of the FBI investigation. But lets see if her accusations even hold up.
It’s easy for someone to make accusations, its another to prove it. This video is one way to offer a hint of truth.
But one has to pause at Walkers claim about being targeted because if you recall, with the incident involving her two sons on dirt bikes on Dec. 30, 2020,, a report found Torres-Walker’s claims against Antioch Police to be unfounded–citing new information, the investigation was then reopened. Again, who really knows?
On the other side, if it is determined Torres-Walker is being targeted, those officers should be immediately dealt with and everyone bashing Torres-Walker will owe her an apology–including me. But we can’t get to that point without any form of transparency.
But for Torres-Walker to call on the DA and FBI to release the names of officers involved in the investigation while her video is being protected from public view is shameful and shows hypocrisy at its finest.
Antioch Mayor Playing a Role in Lack of Transparency
At some point, reality will set in and the residents of Antioch will have to deal with the shenanigans of this City Council from the game of the “great deflection” being played. The consequences are going to hurt and the two years of political grandstanding by Thorpe will come back to bite everyone.
For example, the hiring of a new city manager and police chief was supposed to be open and transparent. Neither has occurred thanks to Thorpe pushing the urgency timeline to right before an election should Monica Wilson or Tamisha Torres-Walker not be re-elected–again, he needs his third vote to accomplish anything.
The irony here is Thorpe and Wilson both serve on Tri Delta Transit Board who recently announced they performed a national search and hired Rashidi Barnes as CEO.
While Tri Delta Transit can hold a national search and be transparent about the hire, Thorpe and Wilson cannot provide the same transparency and respect to the residents of Antioch who voted them into office in the hiring of a city manager? It’s almost comical if it wasn’t so darn sad because the city manager deals with a much larger budget and more employees.
Furthermore, while Thorpe continues to throw shade at the Antioch Police Department in the name of transparency and police reform, he has failed to provide any transparency of his own regarding his DUI arrest to the sexual harassment claims while at the Los Medanos Healthcare District. Its rather stunning most other media is giving this guy a free pass after a time of #MeToo.
Transparency Must be Top Priority
I realize transparency isn’t going to start and stop with the Torres-Walker body camera footage. Transparency begins when everyone agrees that regardless of political agenda, the community has a right to know and a right to make a decision based on all the information and facts instead of half-truths, heresy or innuendos.
The residents of Antioch should be concerned by the lack of transparency and information not being provided to them. They should be concerned that 10% of the police force is under FBI investigation. They should be concerned that every time they speak up they are attacked or called names by the Mayor.
Antioch has an election in November for District 1 and District 4. I always thought public safety and economic development were the top two issues for a city with the most potential anywhere in the San Fransisco Bay Area. I was wrong, transparency is now the top issue.
Antioch deserves a council and city staff who understand what transparency is and how important it is to a community over political games and agendas.
Perhaps the next city council will stop talking about transparency and instead will execute and act on it at all levels.
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