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Opinion: Antioch police abuses need swift and accountable justice

I’m angry about the institutional racism and homophobia in the Antioch Police Department. These reprehensible views don’t reflect the values I see every day from my Antioch neighbors — the people law enforcement is sworn to protect and serve.

For each day those involved in sending racist, homophobic messages — such as calling Black people the N-word and Black women “water buffaloes” — remain employed, the anger felt by people of color continues to intensify. These actions have shattered the trust and progress Antioch has worked so hard to build.

I am no stranger to the deep hurt caused by racism, which I have experienced in many ways. Much of my childhood was spent in a mostly white Marin County community where I was one of the few African American kids at my school — facing discrimination, ridicule and outright racism.

My parents marched on Washington D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and later sent me to Howard University, a historically Black college. My mom is a retired teacher, my dad retired as a hospital administrator, my sister is a controller for a New York-based interactive company, and my brother is a retired county corrections officer. My family is proud of our heritage. We are proud Americans and public servants.

The challenges our family faced forged my determination to fight for equality in every aspect of my life, culminating in my election as the first African American woman on the Antioch City Council.

I chose to serve to make a difference and create a more inclusive, welcoming Antioch. That’s why I welcome the civil rights investigation launched by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and support the U.S. Department of Justice’s entry into examining these Antioch Police Department incidents.

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These efforts should deliver decisive, swift justice and comprehensive recommendations for how the city should address and transform the culture of the police department in a manner that our community expects and deserves. We need thorough, accountable investigations that leave no stone unturned.

Those who have violated the public’s trust must swiftly face the legal and moral consequences of their actions. Every individual responsible for these unacceptable actions should be held fully accountable to the community we serve.

Now more than ever, I find hope in how the Antioch community has unified in its collective outrage. Antioch remains a place where neighbors look out for each other. We aren’t afraid to acknowledge our past mistakes, apologize, make amends and move forward.

We’ve faced many challenges before — each time, our community has emerged stronger. We must continue to engage in courageous conversations about race, actively listen to the experiences of marginalized communities, and collectively lift and amplify their voices.

Together, we must use this moment in time as an opportunity to create a future where everyone feels safe, respected and valued, regardless of their background.

This must include recruitment and retention of a sworn police force that reflects the values and diversity of Antioch and comprehensive training to ensure a culture and safety approach that builds community partnerships and trust. Those who break the law — whether law enforcement or others — must be held fully accountable.

Every family deserves to live in a safe neighborhood free from gun violence and to be served by police officers sworn to protect us who meet our standards of community trust. Let us remain steadfast in our pursuit of justice, transparency and accountability.

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Only by addressing the deep-seated issue of race in our own public institutions head-on can we pave the way for healing to begin.

Monica Wilson, who was elected to the Antioch City Council in 2010, is a program manager for an East Bay nonprofit fighting human trafficking.

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