Christmas came early for 28 kids who attended a Lathrop Police Services holiday event Monday night that centered on building a relationship between the community and the officers that serve them.
With the success of the department’s “coffee with a cop” program, Lathrop Police Chief James Hood wanted to add a twist to the bi-monthly meetings by throwing in a little bit of a Christmas theme – bringing out Santa Claus to the Lathrop Generations Center as well as securing presents for every child under the age of 11 that attended the gathering.
Hot chocolate was provided by Ghirardelli, and the toys were furnished by a St. Mary’s High School Toy Drive that benefitted the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Office.
“I think that everybody that came had a great time and it was a positive experience for everybody,” said Hood – who continued the tradition that was started by his predecessor, Danelle Hohe. “The biggest thing was being able to talk to the kids on their level so that they’re able to feel comfortable with us and know that we’re help them and protect them as well as the rest of the community.
“And there were some parents that I had spoken to on the phone previously about some issues that I was able to meet in person, and having this sort of avenue allows for that.”
Lathrop Police Services in unique in the fact that it’s staffed through a combination of San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department sworn officers under contract by the city, and staff that are paid for through the City of Lathrop’s general fund and the one-cent sales tax fund furnished by Measure C.
The City of Lathrop also provides the vehicles and the physical address that the department uses. In order to give a true community feel, Hood said that reaching out to the more than 20,000 residents that call Lathrop home through a series of public events, allowing them to offer input and express concerns face-to-face, only strengthens the bond between the residents that call Lathrop home and the officers that are sworn to protect them.
“The community members are overwhelmingly supportive of our mission and the local government is overwhelmingly supportive and that makes it easier to build the relationship that allows us to address the concerns that the residents come and share,” Hood said. “If there’s something that I need I can go to the council and tell them and they’ll do whatever they can in order to make sure that we have it and that support only leads to better service for the community.”
The department has 26 sworn officers including the chief, and thanks to Measure C funds – which are already paying for a pair of community impact team deputies, a school resource officer and a sergeant – the department will be adding a detective within the next month that will bring the total of sworn officers up to 27.
Hood said that he will again meet with the public on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 8:30 a.m. at Starbuck’s on Harlan Road. The public is encouraged to attend to voice their concerns or simply to get to know the chief and his staff.