Let me first start off by stating that I want more police than Antioch just as badly as the next person considering my family lives there, but the Antioch City Council is making a big mistake by ramming through a policy change that would put 3@50 back in place even if police officers deserve it. This is a case of instant gratification rather than logically thinking this out.
This essentially boils down to a case of “I want experience” as opposed to “I need officers”.
According to Paul Burgarino at the Contra Costa Times, the city needs to fill 14 police officer vacancies, and would like to hire some veteran police officers from other agencies, or lateral hires. Seasoned officers take less training time than a trainee or recent academy graduate and could quickly be put out on the streets, city officials said.
The take away is simple, the City of Antioch is simply wanting to poach officers from other cities as opposed to hiring and training its own officers at a much lower rate. Antioch is claiming its having trouble recruiting officers, however, the staff report is showing a survey of local agencies and their retirement.
As Dan Borenstein points out,
City officials claim the change is needed to help Antioch compete for experienced cops. But a comparison shows Antioch pension benefit levels match or exceed 10 of 15 nearby cities. Moreover, the officials made no effort to figure out the cost of the change. Long-term, the city needs more cops, not more-expensive cops. In a community with very limited resources, Antioch can’t have both.
Okay, missing from the staff report is proof Antioch has had trouble poaching away officers from other agencies. How many had it approached or how many had applied? Where is the application figures? Remember, this is the same City that had over 400 people apply for code enforcement and claimed it had no qualified applicants.
So the City is not going to get experienced officers under the current hiring package. Okay, move on from your first choice and go after bodies that can be trained to eventually become that experience desired. I am not trying to sound naive here, but beggars can’t be choosers. Hire rookies and train them the way you want them to fight crime and the police department would hopefully have them for the next thirty years fighting crime and improving the crime rate.
Under the current “want”, you are hiring veterans (obviously preferred) but realistically you only will have them for 5-10 years before they retire anyway. You might as well think long term over immediate gratification. By moving away from veterans and training Antioch s next batch of highly trained officers, you also push back your pension liability which given the economy, that is a good thing.
For the record, I have no problem with 3@50 for public safety, they deserve it and it should be changed, but not implementing it like its being proposed in order to beat the Governors law. I’d rather see the council decide a better course of action which is pay the officers a higher base salary as opposed to touching the pensions. By paying a higher salary, its better for everyone and doesn’t change the long term liability as much as a pension increase would.
Antioch needs bodies, anything at this point is better than nothing. Considering this vote is occurring directly after the election, that adds another wrinkle as this should have been a campaign issue of how one brings officers to Antioch, I doubt pension increases would have been choice No. 1.
Simple solution, pay officers more, leave pensions alone!
By Michael Burkholder