The Lathrop City Council has yet to make a formal decision about which direction they want to go when it comes to providing police protection to the city of more than 22,000 residents.
But the man trying to unseat longtime San Joaquin County Sherriff Steve Moore is asking that they wait a little bit longer – until June to be exact – before they cast anything into stone.
Former San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Pat Withrow – who unsuccessfully challenged Moore in 2014 – spoke during the public comment portion of Monday’s Lathrop City Council meeting, pleading with the body to hold off of finalizing a contract with a rival agency until after the election.
Withrow, who spent 10 years assigned to Lathrop during his tenure with the sheriff’s office, said that once he’s elected he would be willing to offer the city a contact that could beat the offer submitted by neighboring Tracy – saving them millions of dollars in startup costs and still retaining the longtime relationship and familiarity that elected officials have known.
“If you’ve been watching the news recently, and if you’ve seen our data, then you’d know that the current Sherriff will be voted out of office in June,” Withrow said. “Please don’t let one dishonest official change what has been going on in Lathrop for years now.
“Don’t let one bad apple change all of the good things that have been built.”
Current Assistant Sherriff Phil Green, who was in attendance at Monday’s Lathrop council meeting, deferred commenting on Withrow’s statement to Moore – adding that the Sherriff hadn’t been made aware of the comments that were made.
The contention stems from the city’s decision to hire Municipal Resource Group – a consulting firm ran by a retired police officer – to examine the city’s current contract with the Sherriff’s office and compare it to what neighboring agencies would charge the city for similar services. The “unsustainable” costs associated with the contract – including a $500,000 annual fee for overhead expenses, and one-time initial hiring costs for deputies exceeding $250,000 – spurred the renewed focus for Lathrop, which has been in contract with the Sherriff’s office since it was incorporated in 1989, to pursue other options.
While the City of Manteca was considered due to its proximity and the close relationship that the two cities share, a lack of interest in pursuing a contract and other issues like space and support costs make a partnership unlikely to move forward – leaving neighboring Tracy as a viable option.
When contacted by the consultants, Tracy beat the current contract by half in some respects while maintaining the same level of service that is currently enjoyed.
But the costs of partnering with a new agency, and the startup costs for hiring and training new officers as well as expanding support positions necessary to facilitate such a move, would require a massive financial commitment.
Withrow, who said that Lathrop was “near and dear” to him after the time that he spent working in the community, believes that there is still a way to salvage the relationship and give Lathrop residents the protection they deserve at a price they can afford.
“I saw that you were paying more than $250,000 per new officer, and you had your dispatch fees raised and that the Sheriff said that he had no idea that you were paying $500,000 for administrative costs,” Withrow said. “And I know that from 2007 through 2017, you had the same number of officers despite the costs going up significantly.
“You’ve been ripped off for years by this man, and when I get into office I will sit down and make this right and beat Tracy’s bid.”
Despite his passionate appeal, Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal did pause Withrow momentarily while he checked with City Attorney Salvador Navarrete to make sure that he wasn’t overstepping the bounds of the public comment portion of the meeting – saying that he wanted to be absolutely sure since Moore was not present to defend the allegations.
Withrow concluded after telling the council that he knows firsthand that the decisions made by the Sherriff have affected the city in more ways than one – using the example of a license plate scanner that he purchased using Lathrop’s funds that he was barred from using by Moore despite the fact that they’re proven tools to assist officers in prevent crimes before they occur.
The council is expected to bring the matter back for further discussion as city staff and the consultant get more information from Tracy and other agencies to present options. No formal timetable has been set on when it will be brought back.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.