An attorney representing Antioch’s police union criticized the city’s mayor Friday for holding a press conference a day earlier regarding the placing of several officers on administrative leave due to policy violations. Mayor Lamar Thorpe held the briefing Thursday to announce the actions against officers following an internal investigation.
The announcement comes as Antioch police have also been subject to a probe by the FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office into possible civil rights violations and other crimes. Thorpe said the possible policy violations announced Thursday 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,” the mayor said.
However, attorney Mike Rains, whose law office represents the Antioch Police Officers’ Association and its individual members in employment-related matters, 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 leave the department shorthanded, but said he wasn’t 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 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.
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Ford later Thursday issued an open letter to the city’s residents about the matter.
“Admittedly this is a very unfortunate situation, however I urge that our members’ due process be respected, and they are not tried in the court of public opinion,” the chief said.
Ford in the letter said the department is committed to “developing meaningful partnerships with our community” and plans an open house event in the coming weeks.
Thorpe at Thursday’s briefing said he plans to call a special meeting of the City Council where the chief can answer questions about police service levels in Antioch. The Antioch Police Officers’ Association issued its own statement, separate from Rains’, about the announcement of officers being placed on leave.
“We hope the administrative investigation is conducted in a timely manner, and we look forward to moving forward building our department back to where it once was, with regards to staffing. We will not fall victim to the rhetoric of outside influences who aim to ridicule and discredit the hardworking members of the APOA, as it only gets in the way of the great relationship we have with the community of Antioch,” the union said in the statement.
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