SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The city of San Diego and San Diego Police Officers Association announced Friday morning a tentative five-year agreement designed to stem the flow of cops leaving for higher pay at other law enforcement agencies.

The contract extension with the SDPOA includes a 6.6 percent pay raise for officers, which would make SDPD compensation comparable to the Sheriff's Department, "which is the number-one law enforcement agency cherry-picking our great officers from the city of San Diego," Councilwoman Marti Emerald said.

The agreement still needs to be ratified by the SDPOA rank-and-file and the City Council. A bipartisan group of four council members appeared at a news conference to announce the deal.

Officers have been leaving the SDPD at the rate of eight to 12 per month for several years now, many going to other nearby agencies. Even though the department hired 160 new officers in the last fiscal year, it lost 162.

The city budget for the current fiscal year calls for 2,013 officers, but in recent years, the SDPD has actually employed 100 or so fewer than allowed. City leaders have an ultimate goal of returning to the Fiscal Year 2009 staffing level of 2,128 officers.

"What this agreement means is that we will continue the excellent work, that we will make our neighborhoods safer, that we will have more police officers out doing the job that we need them to do, as we recruit more officers to the San Diego Police Department and that we keep our great veteran officers right here in San Diego, right where they belong," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

Brian Marvel, president of the SDPOA, said "it's become widely recognized" that SDPD officers are paid far below the state average for a large city.

"After much research, negotiation and perseverance, the SDPOA and the city have come to a tentative agreement that places us on a corrective path to rebuilding our department," Marvel said.

"This is an important milestone for our police department," he said.

"For years, our officers have been leaving our department at an alarming rate for greener pastures."

The total cost of the contract extension is about $92 million over five years, with $62 million being new costs, according to the mayor's office. The costs are largely driven by a restoration of holiday pay and an increase in healthcare, equipment and uniform allowance, with specific incentives for experienced officers and an equipment allowance for new recruits.

The package is structured to focus on incentive-based increases and is geared toward officers who reached specific experience requirements.