SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Police Officers Association announced Friday that 88 percent of its membership voted to approve a tentative five-year contract with the city.

The deal includes pay raises of 3.3 percent in each of the final two years of the deal, which was detailed by city and police leaders last week and still needs final approval by the City Council.

The agreement is aimed at stopping an outflow of experienced officers who have been leaving for higher pay at nearby law enforcement agencies.

Changes in the first three years impact benefits that will not increase salaries but will boost take-home pay.

"This ratification is an important step forward for our department," said Brian Marvel, president of the SDPOA. "This contract is geared toward addressing the recruiting and retention issues our department has faced for several years."

Officers have been leaving the SDPD at the rate of eight to 12 per month for several years now. 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.

"This agreement establishes the foundation necessary to begin rebuilding our police department," Marvel said. "As this process continues, we will be working with the department to increase staffing, implement the city's five-year plan, and improve infrastructure throughout the department."

The package is structured to focus on incentive-based increases and is geared toward officers who reach specific experience requirements, according to the mayor's office.

"Every San Diegan deserves to live in a safe neighborhood," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "Working with the brave men and women of the San Diego Police Department, we're going to rebuild our police force and get more officers on the street, working with our communities and keeping us safe."

According to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, it could be a few weeks before the City Council confers final approval on the package because the San Diego City Employees Retirement System has to compile an actuarial report first.

A bipartisan contingent of four council members attended a news conference last week to announce the tentative deal, so passage is not expected to be a problem.