Calif. city votes to extend $30K incentive program to recruit new police hires

The incentives to join the Antioch PD are structured over five years, with $15,000 paid upfront along with other incentives as a way to recruit officers

By Judith Prieve
Bay Area News Group

ANTIOCH, Calif. — With its police force still suffering from staff shortages, Antioch will continue offering bonuses of up to $30,000 and other incentives to police officers joining its department.

The council approved extending the bonus package for one year for transferring and entry-level officers this week on a 4-0-1 vote with Mayor Pro-Tem Tamisha Torres-Walker abstaining.

The incentives are structured over five years, with $15,000 paid upfront along with other incentives as a way to recruit officers in what is now a highly competitive job market. That, coupled with the fallout from the recent racist police text scandal and FBI and Contra Costa District Attorney investigation of some officers has dwindled ranks even further, officials say.

But before voting to extend the incentives, Councilman Mike Barbanica, a former Pittsburg police officer, asked to hear from Acting Police Chief Joe Vigil on the program’s success rate.

“Has it been successful?” he asked. “How is it gonna be funded in the future? We’re doing this based on salary savings. Are the funds there?”

Vigil said the first person to receive the incentives will be next month, while the next will be in the following month and others – six new officers – beginning in the new year, all recent police academy graduates. Four more recruits are in line to receive incentives the next fiscal year, he added.

“Have you seen an impact in recruiting?” Barbancia asked.

“We’ve seen it in recruiting because our recruitment numbers are up and our application numbers are up,” he said. “Of course, it’s one thing to apply and come up with the testing and it’s another thing to make it all the way through the process. So we are tracking ahead of where we typically were before this.”

While Vigil said that thus far the department has only seen one big group of recruits, so it’s too early to predict how successful it will be, he did indicate that this was the biggest month for applications. The bonuses, however, have only attracted one officer from another department, he said.

Other cities have also offered bonuses, including Pittsburg at $15,000 for police transferring in, Palo Alto at $25,000 for laterals and $10,000 for academy graduates, while Alameda offers the biggest bargaining chip of all: a $75,000 enlistment bonus.

In 2017 Antioch reintroduced signing bonuses of $10,000 over three years to lure experienced officers in an attempt to reach its longstanding but elusive goal of a 104-person police force. That was after an eight-year gap with no bonuses.

But by September 2022, the council decided that $10,000 was not enough as ranks had begun dwindling in what then-Police Chief Steven Ford called “unprecedented times.”

Fast-forward a year later, and Acting Chief Vigil now says overall staffing is “hovering in the low 70s,” with patrol numbers in the 30s, and four supervisors, and five to six detectives working a day. Meanwhile, the department is budgeted for 115 officers.

Knowing the numbers, Barbanica said he supported extending the incentives for another year.

“My personal view is that it’s worth it to go one more year with this thing,” he said before moving for approval of the measure. “We need to hire police officers, and if that means that we have to spend $300,000 (the maximum authorized) to hire police officers, that’s what we need to do.”

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