The Lathrop City Council took a major step forward Monday in establishing its own police department.
Elected leaders voted 4-0-1 on the creation of the Capital Improvement Project with council member Minnie Diallo abstaining for not having enough information. "All we have are numbers," she said.
City Manager Stephen Salvatore promises to have a police force in place that will bring pride to the community. The work can now begin.
He had the support from the movers and shakers of the City's 31-year history including Bennie Gatto, Tosh Nishimura, Mark Elliott and Rev. Lu Davis, to name a few.
"We need our own identity," said Gatto, echoing the grassroots effort it took from the community to incorporate the City.
He expressed thanks to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department for "excellent" rapport and service over the years.
"There's no animosity but it's time to move on -- we need our own identity," Gatto said at the special session.
Supervisor Tom Patti (San Joaquin County, District 3) also believes this move will best serve the community of Lathrop, with the Sheriff's Office helping out in the transition.
SJCSO and the City have worked together since 1990. Most recently, Lathrop executed a five-year contract with SJCSO (dated April 17, 2017) that's set to expire on June 30, 2022.
Throughout this time, SJCSO has implemented community-based policing that continues to be very successful in engaging the community and administering programs towards reducing crime.
"The community is grateful to all the hardworking law enforcement men and women that have served Lathrop over the years in making it a safe place to live, work and raise their families," said Salvatore.
In his staff report, he noted that costs of police services have increased annually — for example, the current year's budget rose to over $9 million for 28 sworn officers.
"The cost increases are mainly due to the unusually high pension cost paid for each officer and ever-increasing officer startup costs," Salvatore said.
The new officer startup costs have gone up substantially, going from $219,000 (fiscal year 2013-2014). to $294,000 (2017-2018), to the current $355,000. Salvatore indicated that the startup costs are in addition to the annual officer cost.
The proposed SJCSO contract for 2021-2022 is estimated at $9.1 million for 28 sworn officers.
Salvatore and his staff estimated the cost of the new Lathrop Police Department at $8.8 million. Included would be 33 sworn officers and 13 non-sworn positions.
For the past decade, Council and staff have worked diligently on achieving financial stability.
They're confident that now is the idea time for Lathrop to transition to a city police department.
"We have evaluated all components of a proper transition and estimate the costs at approximately $6.5 million," said Salvatore, who pointed out sources set aside financially in the form of the Police Transition Fund, General Fund and Measure C Fund.