The Antioch City Council approved the use of money freed up by vacancies within the Antioch Police Department to pay for five per diem officers, who would receive no benefits, plus three full-time cops.
The police department is authorized a staff of 175.5, which includes patrol officers and community service officers (CSOs), but is operating with 61 vacancies. According to City Finance Director Dawn Merchant, six of these vacancies are budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year, so they can be filled.
“I’m extremely happy that I’m seeing the support from not only the City Council and the city manager, but the community as a whole,” Chief Allan Cantando said. “Being able to move officers out of duties that were traditionally reserved for non-sworn personnel is going to free some officers to do some proactive work out there.”
The officers hired wouldn’t be assigned to patrol work, but would handle internal duties in the jail and clerical offices, freeing up more cops for work on the streets. The five per diem officers, Cantando said, would be retired cops asked to come back. Since these officers have already worked for the Antioch department, training time would be minimal and hires could be made in a few weeks.
Councilman Wade Harper said the per diem officers would make roughly $42 per hour.
“In these precarious financial times,” City Manager Jim Jakel said, “this is a very cost-effective way of making an impact right away.”
The annual midrange salary for a full-time officer, not including incentives or overtime, is about $132,000, Merchant stated in her staff report.
Cantando also said the department is seeking grants to help pay for more officers.
City staff originally recommended hiring two of the three vacant full-time officer positions, but the council opted to go all out. Combined, not hiring the three full-time cops would save the city $33,000 per month in salary.
City Council members also had the option of hiring CSOs instead of more than two officers or simply holding off on hiring until the city has a clearer idea of the upcoming budget.
This decision comes in the wake of the last City Council meeting, in which Cantando gave an update on his department’s performance in 2011 compared to 2010. Violent crime took a 5.3 percent dip in 2011, but property crime rose by 25.1 percent. Response times have grown from roughly five minutes three years ago to about eight minutes in 2011.
Residents have commented at City Council meetings about the general lack of security associated with living in Antioch, as well as the need for more activities for young people as a way to divert them from a life of crime.
The statistics regarding property crime and response time, Cantando said, largely relate to simply not putting enough boots on the ground.
“We stand with you,” Harper told Cantando. “We’re not going to sit back and allow our city to be unsafe and to accept the new norm.”