On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council agreed in a split 3-2 vote to accept grand funding of $750k from the US Department of Justice COPS Hiring Program that would bring 6 police officer positions to the city who will serve as school resource officers.
The council, did however, request the Antioch Unified School District pick up 50% of the bill in an amount of approximately $375k.
The split 3-2 vote had Mayor Sean Wright, Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts and Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock in favor with Lamar Thorpe and Monica Wilson voting “no” after approximately 100 public comments and an hour of council debate. Thorpe actually made a motion to request the school district fund 100% of the grant, however, Ogorchock issued a substitute motion which passed.
If the school district approves, the city and school district would split costs and have a School Resource Officers at the following schools:
- Antioch High School
- Deer Valley High School
- Antioch Middle School
- Black Diamond Middle School
- Dallas Ranch Middle School
- Park Middle School
The grant is for $750,000 over three years which amounts to $125k per officer position for the duration of the grant, or $41,667 per officer per year. The maximum cost of each officer including salary and benefits is $167,458 per year. The net cost to the city would start at $125,791 per police officer per year. If all six positions were filled, the initial cost would be approximately $754,756 the first year and increasing annually thereafter.
Following the three-year grant cycle, APD would be required to retain these positions for at least one year and APD would be required to fund the positions of $41,667 per police officer initially covered by the grant.
The city anticipates if the grant is accepted, the fiscal budget could increase $3.2 million if AUSD is not able to help fund a portion of the cost.
Mayor Sean Wright explained this has been something the community has been asking to do for a long time.
“This has been 5-to-10 years, long before I was on the council. This has been a request of the community to add School Resource Officers back onto campus but because of the downturn in the economy there was not enough police officers,” said Wright. “Our police force was always looking as they increase the police force to be able to reimplement and Chief Brooks has put an emphasis on community policing. We see community policing as an opportunity to put officers on campus not just for safety but to create those relationships.”
Wright further stated that youth need to better understand police officers and police officers need to better understand our youth—they need to have conversations. He noted that community resource officers allow those conversations to happen.
Councilmember Lamar Thorpe highlighted how the school district was cutting positions and Antioch was an under resourced District. Thorpe stated his perspective was much different than the mayors saying over the past decade he has not heard the community want school resource officers.
“What I have heard is they do want youth programs, what I have heard is they want mental health specialist, what I have heard is they want opportunities to ensure our young people are being diverted onto the right path and out of trouble,” stated Thorpe. “As a parent, I have a different perspective, I don’t want my daughter going to a school where there are police officers. I think school is for learning and education.”
Thorpe noted in the face of the $1.8 million cut the Antioch Unified School District recently made, eliminating 28-positions, he could not support this proposal.
“We can certainly ask the school district to fund this if they find this important in lieu of the 28-positions they cut, but I find it very problematic that we would go in this direction,” stated Thorpe who suggested they should postpone this until the district decides if it wants to fund this.
He further continued.
“This one is giving me a lot of heartburn because this is contrary to what I think people are demanding in our country, in our state, and in our community right here in Antioch,” stated Thorpe.
Councilmemebr Lori Ogorchock asked Chief Tammany Brooks why he applied for the grant. Brooks replied he had been looking forward to the grant for quite some time.
“Since I have been chief, I’ve had residents asking me when I thought I was going to be able to put school resource officers back in the schools so when I saw this grant in early January and saw it was specific to hiring school resource officers I knew at that time I wanted to apply for it in an effort to respond to the requests from the community,” stated Brooks who confirmed he also worked with the Antioch Unified School District.
Ogorchock highlighted not only did her three children have SRO’s when they were in school, they had them back in 1971.
“I appreciated the fact that they were in the schools and were building relationships with the children. Not just my children, but all the children,” stated Ogorchock. “They didn’t have a fear of the police officers because they had the relationships that the mayor just spoke about and to me that is a big thing to create those relationships between the youth and the police officers.”
Ogorchock stated she was in favor of this and would like to move forward with this.
Councilmember Monica Wilson asked about School Resource Officer training in which Brooks replied that officers would be required to take a 48-hour training course through the Association of School Resource Officers—a basic course. Brooks said this course is “current” and noted there is ongoing training.
Wilson shot back at the Chief stating 48-hours versus someone who has already gone to school and spent years training in trauma and mental illness. Brooks interjected saying they were not going to get new officers, this would be senior officers on staff who have gone through training over the years on desecration, cultural awareness and other training.
“I am not one to use our police officers as mental health experts and one of the things from the 700 emails we got back in June, I heard repeatedly our police officers are not social workers,” stated Wilson who continued stating she was surprised this did not go to the school district first.
Wilson stated she would prefer looking at other solutions but could not vote for these six officers when students were asking for counselors.
Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts wished they had more time to consider this allowing the city council and school district time to talk since both the city and school district were dark. She highlighted the need for the city and school district to work together which she hoped the sub-committee would help.
Motts highlighted she reached out to several principals at schools (Deer Valley HS, Antioch HS, Antioch Middle School, Black Diamond Middle School, Park Middle School) and the pastor at Grace Bible Fellowship to get their opinions.
“I have to tell you from their point of view, they were in favor of bringing the school resource officers back to the schools,” stated Motts. “But they also made some critical comments as they talked about it’s a new day and some of the criteria, they mentioned I am in favor with.”
- Each SRO should go through a rigorous process that includes each school participating with staff parents and students involved
- True resource officers and have training
- Role models with the right focus
- Be available during the day and sport evening events
- Young people see police in different light
- Having the right SRO can re-write the narrative.
“Our community members have a pretty good idea of the sense of where our needs are with the schools,” stated Motts. “Its encouraging to hear my council talk about supporting schools and supporting mental health, supporting counselors, recognizing additional need for professionals that can provide emotional and mental and social educational support because I’ve never heard that before. I think this is fantastic and something we need to do. I don’t think it’s ever been more clear that public education is completely underserved and consequently our students are too.”
Motts said she would go forward tonight but was contingent on the school district support and supplemental funding of at least $250k and after approved the city, school district and police department collaborate on the mission, goal, and how they will interact with students.
“That would be the only way I can move forward,” said Motts.
Thorpe said they should ask the school district to fund this entire thing because he believed they shouldn’t throw out numbers first, they should let the city know what they want to do and reconsider.
“I don’t accept this notion that we can’t meet because the reality is both the mayor and the president of the school board, Diane Gibson-Gray, have the power to call special meetings with 24-hours notice. So there is no excuse for not having the meeting. The go dark thing is not an excuse to me,” stated Thorpe highlighting the ad-hoc committees that have been meeting the time off.
Thorpe stated the school and city ad-hoc committee should have met on this particular issue and should have discussed it and had recommendations.
“There is no excuse not to meet. These fake timelines we are coming up with are not real. The mayor has the power to call a meeting within 24-hours and so does the president of the school board and Joy you did it as president of the school board on when they were trying to steal Dozier-Libbey medical school,” stated Thorpe. “You guys called meetings like you guys were popping out hot cakes. There is no excuse for not doing that.”
Thorpe then motioned they accept this with the conditions the school board pay for the full amount. It was seconded by Wilson.
Wright stated during discussion that he was in favor of the direction Councilmember Motts stated which was a “fairer” request.
Motts asked for clarification from Chief Brooks on whether the school district could take action on this item before the city council took action. Chief Brooks confirmed the city had to take first action.
“I don’t want to walk away from the money (grant funding),” stated Motts. “I want to hear what the school district has to say and they are going to make a decision about it next week.”
After City Attorney Thomas Lloyd Smith asked Thorpe for clarification that the school district pay for everything other than the grant money.
“If they want this, they will pay for it,” Thorpe confirmed in his motion.
Councilmember Ogorchock offered a substitution motion that they accept this resolution to accept the grant money as long as the Antioch Unified School District is in agreement and will fund 50% ($375k).
Ogorchock asked Chief Brooks what other districts are doing.
- Brentwood has three officers, which is split 50% between City and District.
- Concord had four officers (50% split between city & school). Eliminated program
- Richmond had four officers ($900k flat fee). Eliminated program
- Pittsburg has five officers, continuing the program. Charge flat fee of $550k
Motts seconded the substitute motion which passed in a 3-2 vote with Thorpe and Wilson dissenting.
The item will now head to the school district for approval and if approved, will head back to the City Council for final approval.