It was the biggest decision that the Lathrop City Council had to make all year – either stay with the law enforcement agency that has been providing police protection to the city since it incorporated or go somewhere else to save money.
In the end, it ended up being a non-decision when Sherriff-elect Pat Withrow made an 11th hour pitch to the city to allow him the opportunity to come up with a workable solution that will allow Lathrop to do what it really wants to do – which is start its own police department – but in a way that will preserve the longstanding relationship between the city and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
Withrow will be sworn into office within two weeks and will finally have the legal authority to have in-depth discussions with the City of Lathrop about how to proceed with what had all of the makings of a messy fracture exacerbated by rising contract costs that show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Withrow, who was essentially intervening as a private citizen because he didn’t want to see Lathrop – a city he was assigned to earlier in his career – walk away over a dispute over money, acknowledged that he would have to work with both the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and the County Counsel in order to make his proposal work feasibly, but appeared confident than an agreement could be reached.
As a result of the new development – as well as the revelation that the Tracy Police Department’s rank-and-file had taken an unofficial poll amongst themselves that determined that they overwhelmingly did not want their city to contract with Lathrop for police services – the ongoing negotiations with Tracy were essentially halted, and no further advancements have been made on that front.
Lathrop essentially had a contract proposal from Tracy that would have cost them over $5 million in initial startup costs, but would have reached the break-even point by year three and started to save the city money every year thereafter – money that city staff felt could be used to build up enough of a reserve to finally take the leap and launch an independent police department to serve the city of nearly 25,000 residents and growing rapidly every year.
Because there was a provision in the contract that would have allowed either Tracy or Lathrop to cancel the contract after three years, the potential did exist that the city would only break even if it was not extended to the full five-year mark, and that all of the institutional knowledge that the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office brought to the table – they have been providing police services in Lathrop since the city incorporated in 1989 – would have been nullified for nothing.
The fact that Tracy’s Chief of Police was unceremoniously let go the day after the contract proposal fell apart in Lathrop makes it unlikely that such a deal could be salvaged as was initially drawn up. Even if Lathrop had approved the proposed contract, it would then have to go to the Tracy City Council, and some on that body – including councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom, who appeared at meetings in Lathrop – expressed concern about Tracy’s ability to protect its own interests in the contract scenario.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.