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Lathrop leaders praise sheriff’s police services

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POSTED December 27, 2013 10:45 p.m.

LATHROP – The numbers don’t like.

Last year Lathrop only had 50 serious crimes.

That’s less than one per day.

And when all of the other less-serious crimes were factored in – burglaries, car thefts, drug-related offenses – the city averaged out only two of those each day.

While the ideal number for each of those would be zero, factors that Lathrop Police Services has to contend with – location along Interstate 5, butting up against the rough-and-tumble South Stockton, being a major stop for truck traffic fueling up on hauls up and down the Central Valley and dropping loads in the warehouse-heavy section along the highway – leave them, all-in-all, with pretty good marks.

That’s why when the Lathrop City Council met on Monday they batted down the oft-discussed idea of breaking free of the contract with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department and deciding to stick with the agency.

At least until the idea comes up again.

“I believe the city is being well served,” said Dan Drummond – the former police chief of West Sacramento that now serves as a consult for Municipal Resource Group. “I want the community and council to know that. I know that’s one of our major responsibilities, and in what I’ve seen and in the conversations that I’ve had, I feel very confident in that.”

The solo police department concept has been a recurring theme for the Lathrop City Council ever since they entered into the contract with the Sherriff’s department to provide law enforcement services for a growing number of residents.

In a sense, Lathrop already has its own police department.

As part of its annual operating budget – and just recently, a one-cent sales tax increase intended to benefit public service – the city pays for new police cars, the salaries of officers designated specifically for Lathrop patrol, and the upkeep on the building on 7th Street that was renovated specifically for their use.

According to MRG, flying solo would give the city more in-house control and likely increased longevity in the officers that elect to work for the department, but would add a whole new level of costs – primarily the after-retirement benefits that have been at the forefront of California’s fiscal discussions ever since cities started realizing that they had promised more than they could deliver.

But expanding the horizons of policing might not be as difficult as you might think.

As part of MRG’s investigation into what would best benefit the city, Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas took a trip to Redlands – just outside of San Bernardino – to look at a state-of-the-art camera system that would provide law enforcement additional coverage of a given area without actually having to put an officer on scene.

The City of Ripon became a national destination for law enforcement personnel when it installed a Motorola system that essentially blanketed the city with cameras – allowing those at the dispatch center and officers in-car to see what was taking place at another location in the community.

Drummond said that while he was still working in West Sacramento he got the chance to get to know retired Ripon police chief Richard Bull, but hasn’t been out to Ripon to see the system for himself.

Lathrop city staff is making the recommendation to stay with the Sherriff’s department. An additional report by MRG will be coming to lay out Lathrop’s options moving forward.

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