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Sheriff makes pitch for keeping Lathrop police service contract

The Lathrop City Council came a vote away from ending a nearly 30-year contract with the County of San Joaquin for police protection last year. 

But the election of a new San Joaquin County Sheriff appears to have been a catalyst in repairing the frayed relationship that almost ended with the City of Tracy providing police services after the council looked elsewhere citing rising costs and a lack of transparency with an agency that had long been a partner. 

Earlier this week newly elected Sheriff Pat Withrow appeared in Acting Chief Ryan Biedermann’s monthly video address – which was filmed at the Sheriff’s Office in French Camp – to make an appeal directly to Lathrop residents about the current status of the contract and the efforts underway to ensure that Lathrop residents are happy about the agreement and the level of service they receive. 

“We’ve been working closely with the Lathrop City Council and their team making sure that for one, they get the answers they needed from the county,” Withrow said in his video address. “There seems to be a good working relationship now between the council and the county with getting the information to make sure they’re paying for the things they should be paying for with your taxpayer dollars, and the county is working closely with them to explain those charges and things like that. 

“If they’re getting charged for things that they shouldn’t, the county will take care of that, and the city is making sure that your tax dollars are being spent properly.”

Part of the issue that prompted the city to push for an independent review of contract options for the city – which also examined the possibility that Lathrop would start its own police department – was the breakdown in communication between the previous sheriff’s department administration and city officials that were grappling the funding associated with the contract’s rising pension obligations and other fees that they didn’t realize were included when they agreed to it. 

Withrow, who served as a Sergeant in Lathrop during his career and maintained that he has a fondness for the city, told the council that he wanted to restore that relationship and has since began working closely with city officials to repair the fractures that almost led to a split. 

“We have met multiple times with your city staff, and we have been very cooperative – any staff that they have asked for we have agreed to let them have,” Withrow said. “They’ve done a great job at beefing up your force down there, and they’ve been great working with us.

“It’s hard for me to give up bodies sometimes because we’re so short-handed over here, so on these last three bodies they agreed to take two right off of the bat and mid-year get the third one so that was great and I appreciate them working with me.”

Withrow maintains that he’s open to fulfilling his pledge to the council to work with the city to transition towards hiring their own officers and slowly build an autonomous police force, but so far that request has not been made by the City of Lathrop. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.