Antioch City Council approves plan to purchase police body cameras

The Antioch City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a $1.4 million contract to purchase bodycams and in-car cameras for the city's Police Department. 

The five-year bodycam contract with Axon Enterprise Inc. was the leading proposal of Mayor Lamar Thorpe's platform of police reforms he brought before the council following the in-custody death of Angelo Quinto in December and another in-custody death in February.

Following the 5-0 vote approving the bodycam contract, Thorpe hailed the victory by saying, "Ten years overdue."

Antioch police were one of the last Bay Area departments without bodycams. Police Chief Tammany Brooks said, "I want to thank the council from the bottom of my heart."

Axon representatives said they hoped to have all Antioch officers and patrol cars equipped by August. The cost of the bodycam contract will be paid from the city's general funds reserve, according to City Manager Ron Bernal. Mayor Thorpe emphasized that the expenditure will not translate into cuts for police or other city programs.

The council also approved the purchase of a new police software package to handle data records. The contract with Peregrine Technologies will cost about $127,000 a year and will integrate a variety of police report platforms, including ShotSpotter gunshot detection system reports, crime data, case management and secured cloud storage. The council also approved hiring of two new police records technicians to handle the added load, which will cost about $263,000 in the first year.

The new expenditures will cut labor costs and provide increased transparency and accountability, according to Antioch police Lt. Jason Fortner.

The mayor offered seven reform proposals to the council last month: mental health crisis response, officer training, demilitarization of police, bodycams and dashcams, independent review of complaints, hiring and screening, and public notification for major incidents.

Before the bodycam vote, the council was presented with ideas and proposals for a mobile mental health crisis response team. Pittsburg City Manager Garrett Evans and Dr. Suzanne Tavano, director of Contra Costa County's Behavioral Health Services, described the details of the model now being built by the county with 12 staffers involving answering calls from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Evans described the program's goal of reaching 24/7 coverage of answering calls for help "anyone, anywhere, anytime." But as Tavano noted, "We have a long way to go."

The program uses two-person teams made up of mental health technicians and/or emergency medical technicians to answer nonviolent mental health calls in lieu of police.

The council instructed city staff to submit a formal proposal for a local crisis team at its March 23 meeting.

Scores of public comments made in person or read by the city clerk during the meeting created a tense pitch of racial tension that culminated with Thorpe exploding in anger at the critics of council members Tamisha Torres-Walker and Wilson.

"I'm just sick of people calling my colleagues 'thugs' and I'm done with it," he said as he called an end to the council meeting and cut off his video call at 12:03 a.m.

In last year's election, Thorpe ousted incumbent Mayor Sean Wright and Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts lost to Torres-Walker. The vote count delivered an African-American majority on the City Council and a definite progressive swing to local politics.