A group of six black women, two black men, a white man and a white woman pose for a group photo in Antioch city council chambers

‘We’re Not Going Back’: Antioch Appoints New Police Oversight Commission

A group of six black women, two black men, a white man and a white woman pose for a group photo in Antioch city council chambers

Members of the new Antioch Police Commission pose along with the mayor and two council members at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

In front of a Pan-African flag, the city of Antioch appointed the first members of its police oversight commission Tuesday as it awaits the outcome of the racist police texting scandal.

“Tonight represents this government taking hold of its city’s instruments and making sure that every department in the city represents the values of this city,” Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe said. “We’re not going back.”

Seven residents with experience in the justice system, mental health, community organizing and ministry were appointed to terms of up to three years. The shortest appointments will expire in November.

Alicia Dianne Lacey-Oha, executive director of Love A Life Outreach Ministries, and Devin Williams, a community organizer with Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, were appointed to one-year terms.

Williams is a regular fixture at council meetings, often advocating for renter protections with ACCE. He was one of the organizers who spoke in support of an anti-harassment ordinance for tenants that passed in July.

>>>Commentary: Antioch’s People of Color Live in Fear of Those Sworn to Protect and Serve

Porshe Taylor, executive director of a faith-based rehabilitation program, and Leslie May, a therapist and activist, were appointed to two-year terms.

May was recommended for the commission by council member Tamisha Torres-Walker, who said the youth involved in the process were impressed with her background in mental health and felt it was needed on this commission.

Mahogany Spears, who was previously a probation officer for the counties of Alameda and San Francisco; Treva Hadden, an analyst with Oakland Police Department’s Office of Internal Accountability; and Harry Thurston, a former member of Antioch’s Crime Prevention Commission, were appointed to three-year terms.

Thurston was among the first to participate in the Antioch Police Department Citizens Academy in 2015, which taught residents how the department trains and investigates, and has been vocal about the city’s need for a police oversight commission for years.

The commission advises city staff, including the City Council, on public safety matters and increases communication between the police department and the community.

After the commission was created in 2022, residents could apply to be on the commission through the beginning of 2023. Appointees went through an interview process involving council members and local youth before being recommended by a member of the council.

Each appointment drew loud applause from the crowd that sometimes drowned out the council’s decisions. Decisions that, with the exception of absences by council member Michael Barbanica and Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson, were unanimous.

Residents, some who have been impacted by the actions of the Antioch Police Department, further shared that praise during public comment.

“She had to stop me to help me rethink and reframe myself into healing,” Kathryn Wade, the mother of Malad Baldwin, who was beaten by Antioch officers, said of May. “I sat there crying, ‘but me, but the police, but it hurts,’ . . . and you helped me find my healing through God, through recovery.”

Frank Sterling, a Native American KPFA reporter who was allegedly attacked by officers at a protest, said the possibility of an oversight commission has been there for a long time. Sterling said that when he asked for a police oversight commission after his attack, “there was crickets,” and the crowd instead cheered on those opposing the commission.

“I’m very excited we have such qualified people stepping up,” he said.

However, former council member and police officer Ralph Hernandez was critical of appointees whose qualifications he said “fell short” and had openly criticized the department. Most of what the commission is tasked with doing, he said, can be handled by city staff and department administration.

Ogorchock said after Hernandez’s comments that she believed the appointees were open-minded and wouldn’t allow any biases they may or may not have cloud their judgment.

“You will do the public’s work, just as this council does,” Ogorchock said. “I hope and pray, and I believe in my heart, that this is how this commission is going to act.”

Community Urges Council to Pass Ceasefire, Just Cause 

Antioch residents asked the council to pass eviction protections and a ceasefire resolution as housing instability increases in the Bay Area and over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7.

Community organizations Monument Impact and Rising Juntos joined residents in reminding the council to keep its word regarding these issues. In a previous meeting, Torres-Walker asked for a ceasefire resolution to be brought to the council and Hernandez-Thorpe said a just cause ordinance would be in front of them by the beginning of the month.

“I know we’re backed up with [agenda items], but this is important,” Sterling said about a ceasefire resolution.

Residents say the issues are connected. Ensuring children in Antioch are safe and in nurturing environments by passing another tenant protection ordinance like just cause, members of Rising Juntos said, is just as important as the safety of children in Gaza.

The Bay Area cities of Richmond, San Francisco and Oakland have passed ceasefire resolutions since Oct. 7. As of January, Reuters found that over 40 cities in the country have called for a ceasefire. More than 20 others have condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas in resolutions.

“It did not start Oct. 7; it started in 1948,” resident Francisco Torres said. “This has to stop, and we have got to be sure that Antioch is on the map with this.”

The next Antioch City Council meeting is on Feb. 27.

Meet the Members of New Antioch Police Oversight Commission

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