ANTIOCH, Calif. - Racist remarks. Death threats. Violent confrontations. Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said messages and encounters with some citizens and even police officers have him fearful.
"I’ve been concerned about my personal safety since the day I became the mayor," he said. "I just don’t feel comfortable asking them [police officers] for anything at this point."
Thorpe said the threats have escalated following the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office release of two bombshell reports that show rampant racist, sexist and other derogatory comments sent by Antioch police, as well as officers bragging about injuring suspects during violent confrontations.
Thorpe had his phone number and email address removed from the city website after receiving ridiculous calls and death threats. But he said someone posted his personal cell phone online, resulting in more threats on his life.
"There are people who have literally blamed me because we have racists police officer at the police department," he said. "They’ve blamed me because I’ve somehow brought the FBI into the city of Antioch."
But the threats and derogatory comments against him are nothing new. Documents show some stem from inside his city’s police department.
Rev. Al Sharpton pointed out racist text messages among officers suggesting they shoot the mayor during a 2020 protest following the murder of George Floyd. If an officer followed through, they would receive a prime rib dinner.
"The true colors of the Antioch Police Department are exposed," Sharpton said. "17 cops sent racist slurs, threats to the black mayor. We stand with Mayor Thorpe and Antioch residents who deserve better."
Sharpton is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland to provide protection.
Black city leaders tell KTVU the safety concerns first began following discussions of police policies and reforms.
For the last two years, Vice Mayor Tamisha Torres-Walker said she too has been in fear for her safety and the safety of her family.
Torres-Walker described the ongoing threats as "pure hell" and said her two sons have been repeatedly targeted. Her property was also vandalized.
She has since had to put up cameras and hire private security. Her oldest son also moved out in fear for his life, she said.
"I’ve just been getting all these calls about my safety," said Torres-Walker. "I think it’s just the idea that people of color, Black people in particular would have the audacity to challenge a system like this."
Despite overwhelming calls for change and police accountability amid a widening probe into roughly 45 officers, city officials said the hostility against them has grown among some backing the officers.
"The emotion centers behind the lack of synergy that’ necessary between a police department and their community," said Lisa Hill, political science professor at Cal State East Bay. "There needs to be a symbiotic relationship."
The fix, Hill said, starts with transparency and identifying the root of the problems that need to be addressed.
City council unanimously approved three audits of the Antioch Police Department including internal affairs, hiring and promotions, and racial equity and police culture.
"Police are charged with serving and protecting and keeping the peace," Hill said. "If we can’t depend on our local agency to do that, you are going to see this emotion coming from fear."
Thorpe said he won’t let fear and ongoing threats stop him from overhauling police policies to better protect the community.
"I think we’ll come out a better city in the long run," he said. "Right now, it’s not going to feel good but we’re going to have a better city as a result of it."