ANTIOCH -- Fresh off swearing in six veteran police officers earlier this month, city leaders again gave the short-staffed Police Department more latitude in hiring.
Without any discussion Tuesday night, the City Council increased last week's cap on the allowable number of officers hired from other agencies, or lateral hires, from 10 to 15.
"We need to make sure we get police on the streets, and it takes them less time to be trained and get going," Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha said.
Since changing its pension benefits in December 2012 to a "3 percent at 50" formula for veteran officers, Antioch has hired 10 police officers from elsewhere. The most recent hires worked for BART, Stockton, Martinez and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office.
Increasing the benefits has made Antioch "look a little better" to potential applicants, Rocha said.
"We want to remain competitive so that we can attract the best," Mayor Wade Harper said. "(The approval) gives another tool if police need it."
Antioch is currently staffed at 89 sworn officers with 72 on active duty, Capt. Leonard Orman said. There are six veteran applicants going through the interview process, including one the city wants to hire but has been in a "holding pattern," he said.
"It's a big step toward helping us reach our full authorization," Orman said.
The department is budgeted for 102 sworn officers and is trying to fill those spots with a blend of rookies and veterans. But, the process has had its ups and downs.
Several officers have been hired, while other seasoned officers have retired or moved to other agencies, with three more departures expected before June.
There is one trainee set to graduate from the academy in early March, and two trainees starting this week, Human Resources Director Michelle Fitzer said in a staff report.
For each lateral hire earning a midrange salary, there is an additional retirement cost of about $960 per month, but city officials say it will save in the long run by hiring faster and not incurring months of academy training costs.
"It's worth it because it's only for a short time," Rocha said.
The city's long-term goal is to bring its number of sworn officers back to 126 and its nonsworn community resource officers to 20, the number it had in 2008 before the economic recession.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.