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Manteca Police station needs to be more secure than gas station at base of Grapevine
MPD station
The police department built 44 years ago in 1978 when Manteca had 22,000 residents wasn’t designed for the needs of a force required to protect and serve a community of 88,000 that within 8 years is projected to hit 100,000.

The Manteca Liar’s Club is convening soon.

You know the one. It’s where senior city management and elected officials gather to review the mid-year budget and to set municipal priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

Yes, there are a lot of moving parts, changing laws, public demands, and not enough cash. That’s a given. But why the confab complete with exercises so they can communicate and get along better with one another that costs enough each year to buy 100 plus more books for the library deserves the moniker “liar’s club” is simple.

Without fail for at least the last 20 years and counting the session has yielded the predictable listing of public safety being the top goal.

In fairness the city has been doing a better than average job when it comes to handling emergencies and responding to top tier police calls. But beyond hiring solid and dedicated individuals to man the frontlines the city isn’t exactly a model for taking steps to reduce the possibility of traffic accidents or engaging with the community to reduce the potential for crime.

Basics count. That’s true. The other stuff needs to compete with other municipal priorities for funding.

But there is one basic that puts Manteca at the bottom of the list when it comes to regional cities such as Lathrop, Tracy, Ripon, and Turlock to name a few.

It’s the poor excuse for buildings housing police department.

Maybe senior staff has seen it. It’s just down the breezeway from their offices that the last permanent city manager signed warrants to fund a study to look at ways to remodel and expand into a customer friendly 21st century city hall.

There is no written rule that police stations need to be new, aesthetically pleasing, or even spacious. But they certainly shouldn’t be cramped or inefficient. And most important of all they should be secure.

Let’s be clear on one point. The Manteca Police station is a joke. I defy one person in senior city management including those who believe a downtown study with an $800,000 plus price tag must be a top city priority this year to disagree. The same goes for the city council including one member — Charlie Halford who as a former police chief is well aware of how weak the facilities are.

There are gas stations at the base of the Grapevine off of Interstate 5 in the middle of nowhere on the way to Los Angeles where employees are more secure than those that work with those entering the Manteca Police Department lobby.

Did I say lobby? I misspoke. Former Councilwoman Debby Moorhead nailed it on the head when she compared it to a phone booth.

How small is it? Let’s put it this way. Under the city’s social distancing rules they enforced for more than a year when they interact with the public only two people should have technically been allowed in what passes for the department’s lobby and that number is pushing it.

There was money included in the budget back a number of years when then City Manager Tim Ogden got tired of repeatedly reading how insecure and inadequate the lobby area is.

The primary funding was for — and I kid you not — bulletproof glass and bulletproof walls. There is some of that in the lobby but it is wildly inadequate even by Manteca’s patch-the-problem mentality.

And — you guessed it — even that small crucial fix was never done.

Yes, this isn’t New York City. But then again neither is Ripon. Just over six years ago a deranged individual armed with weapons drove at high speed late at night to the Ripon Police station where he opened fire on the building. As shocking as it might be to city management types Manteca has hired over the years the exterior of the Ripon department has bulletproof glass.

As for Manteca, the lack of bulletproof glass where there are exterior windows isn’t the biggest threat to police personal and officers.

Manteca — the third fastest growing city in California where council members wax eloquently about making the city cutting edge — expose its officers and staff to internal movements within the department in open breezeways secured by a 6-foot wrought iron fence semi-hidden behind bushes.

That is such a joke it reeks of reckless municipal governance in this day and age.

Then there are converted storerooms used as offices where they can barely fit a desk and two chairs. The dispatch center is jammed as is almost every other area in the 40-year plus facility.

One doubts best practices for police station designs call for emulating classroom wings that open to breezeways to move to other classrooms.

There is a reason Manteca Police Department — unlike other agencies in the region — never have an open house for the public.

Back in 2005 the council at that time was so fed up about the conditions they called “severely crammed” with “inadequate security” that they directed the city manager to work toward a new police station.

They commissioned a study, of course. Then they decided they wanted to save money by using an existing building or teaming up with the county. That is how the Manteca Redevelopment Agency ended up acquiring the white elephant money pit known as Qualex as well as the 8 acres on South Main Street where the city is seeking to build a homeless navigation center.

And what progress has the city made after 16 years? Zilch.

Perhaps we get lucky and the five men voters entrusted to steer the city — Ben Cantu, Halford, Gary Singh, Dave Breitenbucher, and Jose Nuño — will cut through the bull when the mid-year gathering that looks as if it simply goes through the motions of rubber stamping the senior city management’s vision convenes.

Instead of finding money for another downtown study costing $800,000 they need to instruct staff to find the money for a needs study and preliminary design for a new police station.

And then they could address two issues using one parcel. All they need to do is tell staff to pull the plug on the affordable housing component of the homeless navigation center and use the 4 acres plus fronting South Main Street to build a new police station.

That way the homeless navigation center will be secured with not just a 7-foot masonry wall from South Main Street but by a police station as well. It would also make any issues the homeless create near the navigation center for nearby residents and businesses very obvious to law enforcement.

The council can also tell the staff to come up with funding that either borrows against future growth fees or a half cent public safety tax increase that would allow for money to retire debt to build a new police station there was a pressing need for 16 years ago as well as hire more police and firefighters.


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at