“I think it is important as we are rebuilding that some of these quality-of-life things can be addressed,” said Councilman Brian Kalinowski, a lieutenant with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department.
The plan, approved at the Sept. 25 City Council meeting, calls for the immediate hiring of six CSOs. City Manager Jim Jakel will update the council every 45 days to ensure the city can afford the additional employees. Each CSO costs the city $87,000 annually, which will come out of its reserve fund.
“It’s a gamble, and I’m not a gambler per se, but when it comes to public safety, it’s a gamble I am going to make,” said Antioch Mayor Jim Davis.
CSOs handle tasks such as accident reports, property and evidence collection, and answer calls involving crimes where no suspects are in custody. Antioch once employed a staff of 20 CSOs, but all were laid off in 2010.
“It’s a much less expensive way of doing the work we are already doing,” said Councilman Gary Agopian.
Two of the CSOs will probably work in the jail at the Antioch Police Department, which is currently staffed by two sworn officers. CSOs will also take over the duty of transporting suspects to the county jail in Martinez, said Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando.
The number of rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and thefts are all up compared to the same time last year, according to the city’s crime statistics through the month of August. But the number of adult and juvenile arrests in the city are both down, and putting more CSOs on the street could change that discrepancy. “They (CSOs) do so much work and allow the police officers to get back out on the street,” said Councilman Wade Harper, a Tracy police lieutenant.
The CSOs will join a police force already being ramped up by the addition of 13 sworn officers in the process of being hired, according to Antioch Finance Director Dawn Merchant.
Hiring police officers is an extensive process that usually requires interviewing about 100 applicants to find one suitable candidate, and an average of 12 to 14 weeks of testing before that candidate hits the street, Cantando said.
Once the officers are hired, the city will be employing 102 sworn officers and be authorized to increase that number to 126. Crime Prevention Commissioner Bill Cook said the additional hires will help the force, but considering the crime problems the community faces, a fully staffed police department would be better.
“We need to get back to 126 police officers and 20 CSOs to be able to fight the crime that is taking over the state of California,” Cook said. “It’s not just Antioch that’s fighting this problem, but every city and county. Minimal staffing of all city and county police departments, and the release of criminals by AB109, is causing a perfect storm for these criminals.”