California lawmakers, mayor seek CHP help for beleaguered Antioch Police Department

Two state lawmakers and the city's mayor are trying to get the California Highway Patrol to help with Antioch's beleaguered police department, where about half the department is caught up in a racist text scandal.

State Senator Steve Glazer and Assemblymember Tim Grayson on Monday sent a joint letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, noting that CHP officers could step in to fill in the holes.

"The City of Antioch is struggling with public safety right now, and the CHP can help," Glazer said. "I'm very concerned. Crime is up 30% in Antioch. They are only a shell of their public safety presence."

He doesn't know if and when he'll hear back from the governor, but his request comes after Mayor Lamar Thorpe told Glazer on his latest podcast that the city only has "about four or five officers at any given moment patrolling our streets," in a city of 120,000 people.

The other officers have been placed on leave or on POST's decertification list for texting each other racist messages over the years, which were revealed in an FBI-Contra Costa County District Attorney investigation. 

Thorpe said more than half of the 87 officers are on leave because of the investigations into the force, leaving just over 40 officers to patrol the city. The city is authorized to have 115 officers. 

Thorpe said the low numbers of police officers on duty at any given time means police response times can be excessively long depending on the crime being reported.

"We can use the help because it would drastically reduce time in which an officer can respond to a crime," Mayor Thorpe said on the podcast. 

In an interview with KTVU on Wednesday, Thorpe said he asked the CHP for help last month. He added that the CHP officers could likely help out with the sideshows in his city. 

"Our chief is currently working with CHP to determine what extra support would look like," Thorpe said. "That's the process."

He couldn't provide details on why the process is taking longer than he hoped for. He also did not have a timeline for when and if the CHP help would arrive. 

 In early August, Antioch City Council Councilmember Mike Barbanica asked the city to look into getting more help from both the CHP and the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office after sideshows got out of hand.

Newsom has already assigned CHP officers this year to cities that request the help.

CHP officers were sent to San Francisco to assist with the fentanyl crisis. And CHP officers were sent to Oakland to deal with road-related incidents to give police officers more time to focus on solving violent crime.

Not everyone was pleased, however, when the CHP came to Oakland. 

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, said in her opinion that sending state highway patrol officers is "not rooted in effective violence prevention policies or data, but rather is a lazy attempt to suggest action while endangering the people of Oakland.

She noted that previous Mayor Libby Schaaf brought in the CHP three times over two terms and there was no data to prove that the presence of the CHP resulted in a "noticeable decrease in violent crime."  

Reygan Cunningham, co-director of The California Partership for Safe Communities and who used to help lead Oakland's successful Ceasefire program, said bringing in the CHP to help could work if cities have specific plans and measurable goals and data collection techniques.

When she worked with Oakland police, her group would give the CHP specific tasks, such as assisting with a sideshow on International Boulevard, as traffic control is that agency's specialty. 

Then the stakeholders would meet afterward and review what went right and what went wrong to determine the next course of action and best practices.

What Harmon worries about is if cities just ask the CHP or outside agencies to come and help with no plan.

"It all depends on what cities do with them," Harmon said. 

KTVU's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.