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Application window closes for Lathrop PD
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The initial employment filing period for the Lathrop Police Department – the startup agency that is scheduled to take over policing operations within the City of Lathrop on July 1, 2022 – has officially closed.

The window for the last of the four categories that was open – that of police officer – closed last week and after an assessment period that begins on Dec. 13, Lathrop Police Chief Raymond Bechler will have a pool of candidates from which to choose for the front of lines of the new department.

While applicants that have submitted the requisite application will continue on the charted calendar, Lathrop City Manager Steve Salvatore said that the window for police officers will remain open for potential future rounds if necessary. According to Salvatore, if after testing and background checks the need arises to draw from more candidates, having the window closed rather than open will limit the pool from which the city could potentially draw.

The two commanders that will be chosen by Bechler began their assessment window on Nov. 1, and Police Sergeant candidates are scheduled to begin testing on Dec. 6. The potential commander hires – that will help comprise the command staff of the new department – are currently undergoing background checks. An announcement about their selection could come as early as January.

Lathrop made the decision earlier this year to put a plan in motion that would lead to the city having its own standalone police department for the first time in the city’s history. For more than three decades Lathrop has contracted with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office for policing services, and that decision to strike out on its own turned into a contentious battle that included a tense exchange between San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow and members of the council as well as an attempt by Withrow to cancel the city’s existing contract with the county.

The leader of what was Lathrop Police Services, Ryan Biedermann, has subsequently been transferred back to the sheriff’s office in French Camp – at a cost savings to the City of Lathrop for the duration of the existing contract – and the sheriff has been vocal about pulling back some of its resources as it prepares to adjust to life after the changeover in responsibility.

At the time that Lathrop made the decision to start its own department – which has long been a goal of the city – it was the largest incorporated city in San Joaquin County that did not have its own inhouse law enforcement agency.

Escalon – which is less than one-third of the size of Lathrop’s current population – has its own standalone police department, as does the much smaller City of Ripon. This fall Lathrop announced that it would be contracting with the City of Ripon to provide dispatch services for the new department.

The cost to start the new department is being funded with proceeds from Measure C – the city’s one cent sales tax increase that was approved by voters in 2012 – as well as the city’s ample general fund reserves and money earmarked in the council-approved budget.

By 2032 the city believes that it will save nearly $30 million compared to the predicted costs of maintaining the ongoing contract with San Joaquin County – which will amount to a net savings of $23.3 million after the $6.5 million in startup costs are recuperated.

In order to attract qualified candidates, the consulting firm hired by Lathrop to conduct the search and hiring process of its sworn officers has been running commercials in various markets.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.