10 Apr Antioch Mayor Calls for Independent Audit of Police Department’s Hiring Practices
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, at lectern with Gov. Gavin Newsom in August 2022, called for an independent audit of the Antioch Police Department’s hiring practices. (Ray Saint Germain / Bay City News)
By Janis Mara
Bay City News
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe called for an independent audit on Saturday of the city’s police department’s hiring practices and internal affairs processes, the latest development in a scandal involving alleged racist text messages sent by police officers.
In a taped video, Thorpe said he was responding to an action taken Friday by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Claire Maier. Thorpe said Maier released the names of 17 Antioch police officers “who allegedly were unafraid to use racist language.”
“There are no words to express my profound disappointment, given that one of the officers serves as president of the Antioch police union,” Thorpe said.
The mayor also called for an equity audit of the department to measure bias in enforcement efforts and to ultimately pursue measures that would help eliminate racist policies, practices and behaviors.
“We will hold anyone accountable that has allowed this culture to continue irrespective of how long you have been with this department, whether it’s a year or 20 years, and regardless of your rank,” Thorpe vowed.
The Antioch Police Department has been subjected to a probe by the FBI and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office into possible civil rights violations and other crimes.
Maier’s ruling was related to the probe.
The investigation is not the only scandal affecting the police department. Several officers have been placed on administrative leave due to policy violations.
Thorpe held a briefing March 30 to announce the actions against officers following an internal investigation.
In the March 30 briefing, Thorpe said the possible policy violations likely weren’t being investigated as crimes but did not elaborate on the alleged violations or how many officers have been put on leave.
“We have every intention of respecting confidentiality in the process,” Thorpe said.
The next day, attorney Mike Rains criticized the mayor for holding the briefing. The attorney’s law office represents the Antioch Police Officers’ Association and its individual members in employment-related matters.
Rains said the fact Thorpe held a press conference about the officers going on leave meant he had no such intention of respecting the confidentiality of personnel matters in the department as specified in state law.
“The initiation of the investigation and the subjects of the investigation are not matters for public disclosure under existing law” and “the mayor chose to compound the violation of state law by holding his own self-serving press conference,” Rains said.
Thorpe said the placing of “several” officers on leave would result in the department becoming shorthanded, but he said he was not sure about current police staffing levels.
At least eight of the city’s then-57 police officers were under investigation last year for what the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said was possible “crimes of moral turpitude” involving Antioch and Pittsburg police officers. The Pittsburg Police Department has said on social media that the investigation “involves several local police officers, including three current Pittsburg police officers.”
Rains criticized Thorpe for his lack of knowledge of police staffing levels and questioned why Antioch Police Chief Steven Ford was not present at Thursday’s briefing.
“If the mayor was truly concerned about the impact of this latest investigation on ‘staffing’ within the Police Department, who better than Chief Ford to discuss that issue?” Rains said.
“The ‘truth’ of the matter is that the police chief, not the mayor, made the decision to place involved officers in this non-criminal investigation on administrative leave and asked for the immediate appointment of an ‘outside’ qualified investigator to conduct a thorough and objective investigation of the allegations,” he said.
“With his own evasion and doublespeak on full display, the mayor single-handedly created far more ‘rumors’ about this investigation, and adverse impacts on the Police Department and community, than he allayed,” Rains said.
Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication, rebroadcast or redistribution without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited. Bay City News is a 24/7 news service covering the greater Bay Area.