02 May ‘Fire Everyone Who Is Racist’: Black Antioch Residents, Mayor React to Police Texting Scandal
“I was in absolute shock,” Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe told Richmond Pulse of his reaction to alleged discriminatory texts by police. Here, he speaks alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022. (Ray Saint Germain / Bay City News)
Interview, Arionna White
Editor’s note: Antioch Police Department is embroiled in a scandal in which at least 45 officers are accused of participating in a chain of text messages with racist, homophobic and violent language. We asked Black residents of Antioch — including Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who was specifically targeted in the chain — to react. Here’s what they had to say.
Richmond Pulse: What was your reaction when you heard about the racist text messages among Antioch police officers?
Brandon Lee, 36, Antioch resident for over six years: It doesn’t really surprise me. We live in America. This doesn’t change the way I view police or people, in general, but I know what’s out there and move accordingly.
Timzaray Shepard, 30, Antioch resident for over two decades: That it’s got to be more. They are not doing the protection part of “protect and serve.”
Delmar Johnson, 54, Antioch resident for almost 20 years: Not surprised. It is pretty common in law enforcement agencies, and it will show you the bias in policing. The culture has to change in the hiring process in picking these officers. I don’t just blame the officers. I blame the process in how they are chosen.
Harrison Jones, 26, Antioch resident for four years: I didn’t react in any way. I knew from times being pulled over.
Mayor Lamar Thorpe, 42: First, I heard about what was going on. I went through a few different emotions as it was laid out. My concerns were more on staffing and what is going to happen. Then, I was told the text would be released in court, and then after, being able to see what was said.
With the text being released with names, East Bay Times reached out for my reaction as though I had seen the text, but I told them I cannot comment on something I haven’t seen myself.
CBS had a camera on me, and they were going to film my reaction to the comments, which were the text messages. I was in absolute shock. Every other word was the n-word, killing Mexicans, derogatory LGBT comments. I was taken back really far when it was brought up that someone would take one of them out for a steak dinner if they killed me.
RP: What do you want the city to do about it?
BL: It really doesn’t matter what the city does about it because a racist is still going to be a racist regardless, even if you try screening them out or adding regulations. Unfortunately, it is everywhere and there’s no real way to weed them out.
TS: It’s nothing the city can do because it is clearly not a city-to-city thing. It’s more of who becomes an officer. No matter what, you have people that abuse their authority. Officers should know the law and follow it, not bend it when they want to out of spite.
DJ: The city has to weed out and discipline those who are racist. People are going to be people, and everyone has some kind of bias, but when you have people who are narrow-minded, unaccepting of others, without it being checked, there is going to be extreme bias. Hiring more diversity amongst the force and the police force should be a reflection of the community and be just as diverse in skills and education.
HJ: Fire everyone who is racist, and get people who want to do the job for the right reason.
LT: There’s a process that will happen for the officers and as far as what we need to do as a city is choose either racism or not. We can let things go as they have been or we can stand together to build a police department we can all trust. The culture of the department has to change and without the change no matter who you put in the position without the cultural change in the force.
RP: How would you describe your interactions with Antioch PD over the years?
BL: I’ve had one interaction with Antioch PD on James Donlon Street. I was speeding, and the officer pulled me over and showed me respect, actually gave me a warning instead of a ticket, took a picture with me. I said thank you and went on to work. I wanted the picture because he was cool, professional, and gave me a break. You want to remember the good things.
TS: Pretty good, for the most part. Of course, they profile like hell but not many issues personally. On the other hand, I have seen the abuse of power. In the same boat, I feel like the community isn’t making things easier. There are some people riding around with guns to do harm to people and those feeling as though they have to protect themselves as well. My biggest problems lie with the illegal searches, racial profiling and bias based on the music genre they are listening to. It isn’t right.
DJ: For me, it has been pleasant. I haven’t had any negative encounters with Antioch PD.
HJ: Not often, to be honest. I go to work and do right, but when they pull me over, they always want to search me, and I’m not on probation or anything and I can’t just talk to leave, [or I’ll] go to jail.
LT: I generally follow the law and do not have many interactions with Antioch PD.
Chief called about the man that hit me at the luncheon, and there were several witnesses, but it was not taken seriously. The disappointment in not seeing as though my concerns were taken into account.