ANTIOCH, Calif. (KRON) – While a joint FBI and District Attorney investigation looms over a group of patrol officers in Antioch, the mayor and police chief say recruiting for the short-staffed department has improved in recent months.

By the end of January, in a continued effort to build trust with the community while officers in his department are under federal investigation, Antioch Police Chief Dr. Steven Ford says he is launching a community engagement unit that will focus on building relationships through outreach.

“We’re also creating a newly formed criminal investigations unit, which will be intelligence-led and intentional on addressing our most violent offenders,” Ford said.

Chief Ford and Mayor Lamar Thorpe spoke during a news conference at city hall Thursday, updating the public on where the joint FBI and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office’s investigation into eight patrol officers stands.

“Out of the eight officers that are currently under FBI investigation, one is no longer with the Antioch Police Department and we continue to work to ensure that we free up those slots so that we can continue the hiring process,” Thorpe said.

The mayor later clarified one officer resigned last month. The other seven remain on paid administrative leave.

Among the accusations facing the officers is misuse of the K9 program and abuse of department-issued cellphones. Those positions remain unfilled, leaving the agency with 98 sworn officers for a department authorized to have 115.

But the mayor says since a $30,000 bonus program was approved last year by the city council for new recruits, the department has seen a 44% jump in applications.

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“We’re not seeing a lot of laterals but we are seeing people who are fresh out of college or looking for a career change who want to come to the City of Antioch as police officers and we think that’s great,” Thorpe said. 

A source familiar with the investigation into alleged misconduct who spoke on background says the joint investigation could be wrapping up soon with indictments forthcoming.