By Rick Hurd
Source East Bay Times
ANTIOCH, CA — Two state lawmakers have asked the governor to send California Highway Patrol officers to help patrol a city whose police department is engulfed by scandal, leaving dozens of officers on leave.
In a joint letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom sent Monday, state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa, and Assemblymember Tim Grayson, D-Contra Costa, sought help from the CHP in protecting the community. Glazer also said Wednesday morning that he spoke with CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee about the request.
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"With a population of 120,000, Antioch is currently experiencing a severe loss of officers, stemming from several investigations from the offices of the FBI, California Attorney General, Contra Costa County District Attorney, as well as a federal lawsuit that alleges civil rights violations," the letter from Glazer and Grayson said. "This unprecedented crisis has depleted the local police force due to indictments, suspensions, administrative leave and attrition, and has left the community vulnerable and struggling to maintain law and order."
The city is dealing with state and federal investigations into multiple officers' conduct, — including racist, homophobic and sexist text messages, as well as allegations of criminal conduct — which has put as much as 40 percent of the force on paid administrative leave. Eight Antioch police officers have been indicted on federal or state charges, with allegations ranging from major civil rights violations — including assaulting citizens, mostly those of color, for sport — to accepting tequila bottles as bribes to get rid of traffic tickets.
As the probes have widened, serious criminal cases against civilians — including murder — have unraveled, collapsing under the tainted testimony of officers accused of harboring racist views and betraying their oath.
"I'm very much appreciative and glad that they see this is an urgent matter," Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said by phone Wednesday. "I do think there's a level of understanding that has taken place that has opened people's eyes, but there have been others who have said, 'I told you so.' There's been a lot of eye-opening and reflection for all of us."
Glazer said he had the idea to write the letter after speaking with Thorpe and hearing him detail the issues that the department faces.
"It's risen to a level of crisis," Glazer said by phone early Wednesday. "We've seen in the last year that the governor and the CHP has recognized other crises in the state. The CHP sent about a dozen officers to San Francisco to help with the Fentanyl crisis. They sent a number to Oakland. They sent a number to help deal with the organized retail theft that's plagued our state.
"Given the detail that the mayor laid out to me, it seems clear to me that (the Antioch public safety crisis) equals or exceeds those other public safety problems."
According to the letter, the police department is down to only 44 assigned officers on patrol and sometimes has only four at any given time. At full hiring, the department would have 115 officers, the lawmakers wrote.
"This significant reduction in manpower has overwhelmed" the department, the letter said, and "placed an immense burden on the remaining officers."
Said Thorpe: "I'm happy they understand the frustrations that many residents and especially businesses are experiencing."
Glazer and Grayson also pointed to the fact that Antioch has had five police chiefs over the past two year. All of them in some way fostered the culture that led to the scandal, Thorpe said, adding that it will take years of change and stability to establish a new one.
The first step, he said, is more help for the department.
"The staffing levels are decimated," he said. "It's not like that's going to go away immediately."
Glazer said he's hopeful that Newsom's staff will give the issue the "attention that is needed," while the governor is in China and that help will come sooner rather than later.
"It's an uncomfortable topic to talk about, and I give the mayor a lot of credit," Glazer said. "He'd been resistant to outside change. Now, he's open to talking about it and getting help. That's a healthy thing to ask for help."
Calls for comment to Newsom's office, as well as Assemblymember Grayson, were not returned Wednesday.
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