Community Urges Acting Antioch Police Chief, Police Union President to Quit after Civil Rights Abuses Found by FBI

By The Vanguard Staff

ANTIOCH, CA – The acting Antioch Police Dept. police chief and president of the police officer union here should resign, urged community groups here Friday after a report found they were complicit in allowing civil rights abuses by police, according to a story in the Mercury News.

The letter released Friday said the officials should “step down amid revelations that they and other police supervisors signed off on the use of force by police officers who are now charged with federal civil rights violations.”

The Mercury News added the “latest demands for the Antioch Police Department to clean house follow a Bay Area News Group report that found acting police Chief Joseph Vigil, Sgt. Rick Hoffman — the president of the Antioch Police Officers Association — and others concluded time and again that the actions of the charged officers followed department guidelines and deserved no discipline.”

The FBI, in a criminal indictment of three officers, found officers’ use of force violated departmental policies and people’s civil rights.

ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) Contra Costa Antioch Chapter, charging they were “disgusted and appalled” by the APD, said Vigil and Hoffman should resign immediately “for their attempts to deny justice.” 

ACCE also demanded an investigation of the shooting of Daniel Mackin last month after four Antioch officers fired dozens of shots at the armed 30-year-old man as he ran from them, according to the Mercury News.

“They’re the problem — they signed off on all this. Now they’re watching the henhouse,” said Frank Sterling, Jr., an Antioch resident and a member of Reimagine Antioch, and sued the department and Hoffman over alleged police brutality, said the Mercury News story Friday.

Francisco Torres, of Reimagine Antioch, added he was “astonished” to learn of the police supervisors’ actions, seconded the call for a probe of the department and agreed if they were not held competent, Vigil and others should be fired or resign.

The Mercury News said dozens of officers, including Hoffman, are on leave in connection to the scandal.

The Mercury News wrote police supervisors tasked with reviewing officers’ use of force consistently approved their actions, including when police fired a projectile at a man backing toward officers with his hand on his head.

The APD concluded that the use of “force appears to be within policy,” but the FBI said it is part of an alleged “scheme” to violate Antioch residents’ civil rights.

Now acting chief Vigil—then a lieutenant—said the shooting was “consistent with agency best practices and policy,” and Lt. Desmond Bittner agreed that “no action” was necessary, added the Mercury News.

Mayor Lamar Thorpe, the target of racist texts sent between Antioch officers, wouldn’t comment other than stating he wished the city council could hire and fire police chiefs. Now, only the city manager can do that. 

Some East Contra Costa County residents, said the Mercury News, want a quicker resolution of the APD because other cities in the Bay Area have moved more quickly against police and racist actions.

“Especially as a man of color, a Black man, it’s just totally threatening,” said Eddie Gums, co-chair for ACCE Antioch. “And what are you to do to protect your children, your wife, your loved ones. It’s like taking a page out of history and going back in time. The civil rights movement hasn’t gotten here yet,” he told the Mercury News.

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