Antioch PD accused of housing harassment

July 16, 2008 7:59:10 PM PDT
There are accusations of racism and police misconduct in Antioch, where the city's been slapped with a lawsuit. Civil rights attorneys in San Francisco claim that Antioch is purposefully trying to run low income residents out of town.

Many streets in Antioch have multiple 'for sale' signs.

The high price of gasoline, the long commute to San Francisco and the mortgage crisis have taken their toll in this city, which has lots of vacant homes and lots of houses are for rent.

Antioch has seen a big increase in the number of houses that are being rented to low-income families. These are families who are getting rent subsidies from the government.

Those so-called 'Section 8' rentals have stirred up strong feelings in Antioch, and they are at the crux of the lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday.

"Today, five African-American women filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Antioch, charging that the city and its police department are targeting African-American tenants in town and subjecting them to a campaign of harassment and intimidation," said Brad Seligman from impactfund.org.

One of the five women is Mary Scott.

"He pushed in my house comes in and rambles thought my items finding things to give Section 8," said Scott.

Scott says an Antioch police officer searched her house with the intent of finding something that would get her disqualified from her Section 8 housing subsidy. The same officer showed up at her hearing before the Housing Authority.

"He tried to say that I had a bad landlord," said Scott.

The police that came into Scott's home were members of Antioch's Community Action Team, or CAT squad.

Antioch Police wouldn't comment, referring ABC7 News to the city attorney.

"Is it their job or their responsibility to enforce Section 8 Housing codes?" asked ABC7's Mark Matthews.

"No, Section 8 is a program run by the Housing Authority the Contra Costa housing authority," said Antioch City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland.

The city attorney says the police are only responding to complaints about criminal activity. But when ABC7 News talked with the head of the local community group that has been working with the police, we got a different story.

"Unfortunately, the Housing Authority doesn't have its own investigative unit, so it's become the police department's problem to actually do the Housing Authority's job," said Gary Gilbert from United Citizens for Better Neighborhoods.

Gilbert is an African American is also a retired Corrections Officer with the state's prison system. He says the Antioch police chief would never discriminate against anyone. But the story is complicated by the fact that the chief of police James Hyde is a former police chief in Davis California, where he did have a reputation of civil rights violations brought about by that city's Human Rights Commission.

They chastised his department in Davis for discriminating and it was a case exposed by an ABC7 News I-Team Investigation


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