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Lathrop seeks police alternatives
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LATHROP – The City of Lathrop is trying to decide whether it should continue contracting its police services with San Joaquin County or try other more feasible and cost-effective alternatives.

The two other possible alternatives involve the city creating its own police department and finding a neighboring city that would be willing to share police services.

Those are the three options that would be the focus of a proposed study of police services in the city aimed at evaluating which alternative would provide the city the best bang for its buck.

The proposed study though would first need the blessing of the council members. They would need to vote whether they should adopt a resolution that would give city staff the green light to set aside $50,000 from the general fund reserves to pay for the study. They will do so tonight, after discussion, at their regular meeting starting at 7 in the council chambers at City Hall, 390 Towne Centre Drive at Mossdale Landing.

 This issue comes as the city wrestles with budget woes in the current fiscal year – bridging a nearly $3 million deficit with some of it resolved by eliminating 15 positions including that of the Community Development Director, and by furloughs and  10 percent pay cuts across the board including Police Services which is contracted with the county Sheriff’s Office.

Police expenses accounts for a third
of the city’s total operating budget

Two-time mayor Bennie Gatto, who was one of the five to serve on the first City Council after incorporation, recalled that the first year of the police contract with the county was to the tune of $800,000.

Today, the 2009-10 police budget is $4,901,336 which accounts for 33 percent of the city’s operating budget.

That money pays for a staff of 31 full-time positions. Staffing includes 27 sworn officers and four non-sworn employees who work in the office.

Lathrop Police Services operates in a 4,317-square-foot office in a building facility that is being leased by the city from the Lum family. The Lums were the owners of the now-defunct Delta Market that was the anchor of the current building located on the south side of the Post Office on Seventh Street in Historic Lathrop. Immediately to the south of the police offices across the street is the Lathrop Skate Park.

Lathrop’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office is due to expire on June 30, 2010.

According to the staff report being presented to the council tonight, the police study is being recommended now because the city has not had the opportunity to review the cost-effectiveness of alternative police-service options since the contract was inked between the city and the county.

Meanwhile, talks continue between the city and the Sheriff’s Office to determine what services should be continued or discontinued as part of the continuing efforts to get rid of the budget deficit.

Manteca offered to provide police services
to Lathrop 20 years ago but was denied

 “They did offer (to provide) police services to Lathrop,” Gatto said about the city’s neighbor to the east stepping forward to lend the fledgling city a hand in police protection.

However, Gatto can’t recall whether Manteca’s offer was lower than the figure that was offered by the county.

“I really don’t remember and I’m afraid to guess. I’d have to ask Steve (McKee, Lathrop’s first and four-time mayor),” Gatto said.

“They (Manteca) tried to sue us, you know,” he said, referring to Manteca’s action in trying to prevent Lathrop’s incorporation as a city.

“But the county said no and Manteca backed out. There was some bad blood, too much dissension then. I believe that was part of (the reason for Manteca’s lawsuit),” Gatto said.

At the time, Manteca was interested in having under its jurisdiction the just-developed Crossroads Industrial Park, now Crossroads Commerce Center on South Harlan Road, as well as the then-Sharpe Army Depot and the former Libbey-Owens-Ford glass plant which is now Pilkington Glass on Louise Avenue.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail or call (209) 249-3536.