Police officer in uniform at microphone. Text that reads. Presentation Antioch Police Department City of Antioch Council meeting

‘It’s Ridiculous’: Antioch Struggles With Low Police Staffing

Police officer in uniform at microphone. Text that reads. Presentation Antioch Police Department City of Antioch Council meeting

“All the calls are suffering across the board when it is busy,” said acting Antioch Police Chief Joe Vigil at the Sept. 26 City Council meeting. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

Numbers show the Antioch Police Department remains understaffed, making it difficult to properly serve residents.

The Antioch City Council received a presentation on police staffing levels at its Sept. 26 meeting that showed the city’s police department, especially patrol officers, struggles to keep up with workloads.

“I believe we need help,” said council member Mike Barbanica, himself a retired police lieutenant. “We don’t have enough staffing.” 

Less than half of the officers in the department are in service due to several officers dealing with injuries or sickness and being out on leave, including those involved in the racist texting scandal.

>>>Read: ‘Fire Everyone Who Is Racist’: Black Antioch Residents, Mayor React to Police Texting Scandal

“It’s ridiculous,” Mayor Pro Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “We all know why the numbers are low. It’s because the standards for over two decades for police in this city have been low.” 

Acting Police Chief Joe Vigil said some departments have had to be reassigned to make up for staffing issues. 

Vigil said 31 active patrol officers are working a modified schedule because of low staffing, which sometimes means four officers patrolling the entire city. To supplement patrol staffing due in part to the scandal, the department has reassigned all of its traffic officers to patrol and left the traffic division empty.

“All the calls are suffering across the board when it is busy,” Vigil said. 

Six officers were sworn in this past week but must first go through field training which lasts about four months. 

The investigations department is also overworked. In the past year, the department lost more than 10 detectives. The current seven detectives manage a caseload of over 300. And three are expected to leave in October.

Barbanica said the department’s low staffing levels will lead to burnout in the department. Officers, he said, may leave Antioch’s police department for departments that don’t have such a demanding workload. 

>>>Read: Council Hears From Acting Richmond Chief on Staffing and Dog Bites

“I think that’s absolutely ludicrous,” Barbanica said. “That being the case, do you believe that we need to bring in CHP to assist?”

Vigil said the California Highway patrol has “made it clear there is no assistance available to us right now outside of mutual aid.” 

Barbanica said he was told differently by Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston and Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord. Barbanica said Livingston told him the Sheriff’s Department would be ready “at a moment’s notice” to provide assistance to the city. And Sacramento, according to Barbanica’s conversation with Livingston, is also ready to provide personnel. 

Barbanica and Vigil agreed to later discuss the discrepancies in the responses they were receiving and reach out to outside agencies again. 

Torres-Walker said it was telling that the two were receiving mixed messages and looked forward to seeing it sorted out. 

Antioch has been actively recruiting for its police department to fill vacancies but still finds it hard to recruit certain groups. 

Council member Lori Ogorchock asked how many current officers are women and how the department’s 30×30 pledge, the nationwide initiative to increase women by 30% in law enforcement by 2030, is working. 

Vigil said only two officers in service are women. 30×30, he said, is not so easy to follow because the department can’t offer them things that others are able to.

“What we’re seeing when we’re pulling the people who show up and we’re trying to recruit,” Vigil said. “They’re asking a lot of questions related to maternity leave and compensation. It’s a lot of areas where we are grossly behind our competitors in how we treat mothers.”

The next Antioch City Council meeting is Oct. 10.

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