The latest accusation occurred last week with the release of a report by Public Advocates and Bay Area Legal Aid that alleges that African-Americans are four times more likely than whites to be the target of CAT investigations.
We have doubts about whether the report's statistical analysis achieves what its authors assert. The report's authors acknowledge that their analysis is based on incomplete data. The report states that "with limited exceptions, (the Police Department) did not provide information about the race of the affected households."
The report also states that because some police reports "were vague, unclear, and inconsistent, we could not perform a precise analysis of the underlying reason for all calls for service that were referred to the CAT, the underlying basis for all CAT complaints submitted to the Housing Authority and landlords, and the outcome of some CAT searches and investigations."
Despite the lack of very crucial racial information and the imprecision of their statistical analysis, the advocacy organizations nonetheless have leveled serious charges of racial discrimination - in effect, smearing not only the CAT, but the entire police department, Antioch's leaders and all of the Antioch residents who elected them.
As the saying goes, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." Statistics can be manipulated and are often subject to multiple interpretations, especially when the data are incomplete, vague, unclear and inconsistent. And that is what this damning report is based on: an imprecise statistical analysis of flawed data.
And yet there is the possibility that there is something to the allegations. On Sept. 25, nine African-American women complained to the City Council about harassment from the CAT, including abusive language, intrusive searches of their homes and attempts to get them kicked off Section 8 housing despite the assertion that they had done nothing wrong.
Were they all lying? Perhaps so, perhaps not. Serious charges of racial harassment have been made, and those charges have been denied. The problem is that we don't know for sure who's telling the truth. Perhaps the truth is - as it often is - somewhere in the middle. In any case, it would be good to put this issue to rest.
We suggest that a council subcommittee be formed that includes members of the East County NAACP and Gary Gilbert, founder of United Citizens for Better Neighborhoods. The committee should interview those nine African-American women and CAT officers, look at the reports - and then release its findings at a City Council meeting.
Whether it's legitimate or not, a cloud is hanging over the CAT. Either the cloud needs to be lifted and the CAT's name cleared, or actions need to be taken to rectify any problems with the team's activities.