Of the dozen people who spoke against the oversight board, the most powerful and poignant comments came from Phyllis Lasater Loya, mother of Larry Lasater, the 35-year-old Pittsburg police officer gunned down in Antioch in April of 2005 while attempting to apprehend two Antioch robbers.
“My son’s blood was sacrificed to preserve the safety of this community, of the community of Pittsburg,” she told the council. “I am begging you to not to let his sacrifice be in vain by hamstringing the police department by forming this proposed civilian police board.
“Before coming here today I did some research on the ACLU Community Action Manual. ‘Item 4 – Controlling the Police. First step: create a police civilian board.’ Our police do not need to be controlled. They need to be supported.
“Today four officers in the state of Washington were buried. I’m sure everyone in the audience is aware of that. I don’t know if anyone in the audience is aware that since their murder, three other officers in other cities in the United States were fatally shot in the performance of their duty. Help the police. Support the police. Do not try to control them by letting activist groups come in here with their political agenda and polarize this community.”
Her comments were greeted with strong applause by many of those in the council chambers. Other speakers argued that state law does not allow the city to set up a civilian oversight board with subpoena powers, that there is no money in the city budget to provide staffing for the board, it would hurt police morale and possibly result in officers second-guessing themselves before engaging in a pursuit or arrest, depending on the ethnicity of the suspect.
Big applause also followed remarks made by Marie Livingston, an African-American woman who has lived in Antioch for more than 14 years. “This proposal is the most asinine, perverse, revolting piece of garbage, and has no place in Antioch,” she said. “Antioch citizens expect to be protected from murderers, violent criminals, thugs and those in our neighborhoods who refuse to conform to civilized behavior.
“(A newspaper) article said council members (Reggie) Moore and (Mary) Rocha are entertaining this idea. I’m against anyone that supports the criminal above the community, the law-abiding citizens. I’m against those that have no regard or compassion for the victims and the horrible memories and scars that they have to live with for the rest of their lives, like this lady who lost her son.
“I feel so bad that things like this are happening in this city. On my street in my neighborhood this rabid animal stabbed and severely beat the mother of his children until she almost died. To the police department, I say blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Only three people spoke in support of the oversight board, but they did not include Angel Luevano, who initiated the proposal at the Nov. 10 council meeting and said he expected the council to present a plan for its formation at the Dec. 8 meeting.
Darnell Turner, representing the East County NAACP, said, “This is not about (Police) Chief (Jim) Hyde. It’s about a community that does not have the full confidence of this law enforcement agency. The council owes the community a chance to listen and hear what are some of those concerns, whether they are valid or not valid. We need to build a relationship to improve the situation we are living under currently. They need to abide by the laws. We need cool heads and calm thinking. We would do a disservice if we do not discuss it and get to the real issues here. This community grew so fast that it was not prepared for the onslaught of the change.”
Willie Mims, representing the Black Political Association, agreed, pointing out that he had asked three or four years ago for the council to form a police review commission “because of the number of complaints from a certain segment of this community. I brought folks here. The council turned their backs on the voices of the people who came before you seeking redress. What else are they supposed to do if the council doesn’t hear the voices of the people who are repressed and their rights are being violated? They feel like they are victims of taxation without representation. It’s your duty to represent the total community. You must meet with the citizens who feel they have been victimized by police conduct.”
Mims was referring to several African-American women who have filed lawsuits against the city and police, alleging racial discrimination in attempts to get them removed from the Section 8 subsidized housing program. The council went into closed session before the meeting to discuss the litigation, and declined to comment on the oversight board on the advice of City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland.
Councilman Brian Kalinowski did reiterate his support of the police, however, via e-mail: “I continue to support the great work done each day by the members of the Antioch Police Department. The Chief does an excellent job and has my full support. He is welcome to serve this community for as long as he wants to. I am sorry I cannot comment more, but I will let the legal process validate the sound work by the APD.”
Moore has been the strongest proponent of forming the oversight board, an idea that received support from Rocha. Neither spoke about it at the meeting or responded to a request to comment.