Antioch council member resigns from police oversight committee after brush with cops

In response to colleagues’ calls for her resignation as chair of a police oversight committee because of an unspecified police incident, Antioch Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker announced Tuesday she will step down.

“Unfortunately, my work on the committee has become adversarial with the (Antioch Police Department), resulting in negative and retaliatory behaviors from APD,” she wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday. “My response to these behaviors has been one of self-protection in my personal life, which I understand may be viewed as uncivil.”

Torres-Walker’s post does not indicate whether she intends to  leave the committee. She did not not reply to requests Tuesday for an interview.

Her decision to resign as committee chair comes in the wake of a call to police over the weekend that brought officers to her home and triggered widespread criticism of Torres-Walker.

The Antioch Police Department has not issued a detailed press release about the incident and Acting Police Chief Tony Morefield said the department will not be commenting because a criminal investigation is ongoing.

A neighbor who lives near Torres-Walker’s home and asked not to be identified said she woke early Saturday morning to what sounded like gun shots and saw multiple police vehicles in front of the house. The neighbor said her security system also captured the sound of Torres-Walker yelling, although she couldn’t make out the words.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe led the charge in calling for Torres-Walker to resign immediately Monday from her position as chair of the Police Oversight Standing Committee, posting a statement on his Facebook page saying he had been “briefed about a recent incident … involving the Antioch Police Department and Councilmember Torres-Walker.”

“As elected officials, we do not have to always agree on issues, but we must always agree on the fact that we must set an example for the rest of the city and treat our public employees with respect and dignity for their contributions to our community,” he wrote.

Councilmember Mike Barbanica said on Facebook he contacted Torres-Walker asking to meet Monday because he wanted to ask her in person to resign immediately.

Although she initially indicated she would call him, Barbanica said, she did not follow through or respond to his second request for a face-to-face conversation.

Council members Monica Wilson and Lori Ogorchock posted their own comments on Facebook; Wilson saying it was in the city’s best interest for Torres-Walker to “step aside in her role” as the committee’s chair, while Ogorchock explicitly said her colleague should leave the group.

“We as council should be looking to remove her (from oversight) and any of the appointments she’s been given,” she said Tuesday.

If the unofficial details of the incident that have been shared online prove to be true, “I don’t feel that she’d be looking out for the best interest of our police officers,” Ogorchock said.

Police are already under the microscope, she said. adding, “I don’t want them second guessing themselves and doubting what they’re doing.”

Comprised solely of council members, the temporary committee was formed in April to monitor police department policies including those governing the use of force. The group, which also reviews complaints against officers, will disband once the city has established an independent review body that will not include any council members.

Barbanica and Ogorchock also are urging the police department to release the footage officers captured at Torres-Walker’s house with their body cameras as soon as possible.

To residents urging the rest of the City Council to oust Torres-Walker, Ogorchock explained that it doesn’t have the authority. District 1 residents voted the council member into office so they would have to recall her or Torres-Walker could resign, she said.

In another development Tuesday, Joy Motts, who lost to Torres-Walker in last year’s election by 212 votes, announced she would be running again for the District 1 seat in 2022.

Torres-Walker, who was elected in November to a two-year term, butted heads with the police department late last year after officers intercepted her two sons for riding off-road vehicles illegally on a city street.

She posted a 9-minute, profanity-laden rant on Facebook accusing the police of intimidation tactics.

The department hired a firm to investigate her complaints; the report it produced in September concluded that Torres-Walker’s accusations either were baseless or there wasn’t enough evidence to support them.

The city’s public information officer on Friday issued a news release stating that the council has decided to retain another outside firm to review the matter further.

 

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Author: Rowena Gonden, correspondent

EastBayTimes