LATHROP, Calif. (KTXL) – Lathrop’s newly-sworn-in police chief is looking for experienced officers to help build the culture and set the tone for the new department for years to come.
Raymond Bechler was handpicked by the city of Lathrop to lead its first-ever police department in the city’s 32-year history.
“Building a police department from the ground up is quite a task,” Bechler said. “An honor to be selected and to be the chief.”
Bechler’s law enforcement career spans more than three decades and across several agencies. He also helped launch the Citrus Heights Police Department as a lieutenant.
“My passion about law enforcement is people,” he explained. “I’m a people person, I care about people.”
Sworn in nearly two months ago, Bechler is in the middle of a multi-regional search to fully staff the force. He and the city are working to fill 46 positions, which include 33 sworn officers, sergeants and commanders, along with administrative staff.
“It is a heavy lift to think about all the logistics of the technical side and program building, policy building,” Bechler said.
Bechler added his biggest challenge is hiring.
“The kind of officer we’re looking for is a balanced police officer that is aggressive on crime that really wants to go after the bad guy, but also understands that there’s quality of life issues in the community that really needs to be addressed,” Bechler told FOX40.
Lathrop’s own police department has been in the works for more than 10 years and will take over for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, which has long been responsible for patrolling the streets.
“I think that responsibility to care for the community has always been ingrained in my heart and that’s what’s most important,” Bechler said. “It drives me to want to build an agency that is responsive to the needs of our community and wants to keep this community safe.”
Despite all the work that’s still left to do, Bechler said the department will be up and running by July 1, 2022.
A citywide survey identified what residents want out of their new department, with top priorities including having a department that reflects the diversity of the city, officers that are approachable officers and who will engage with the community and a department that is committed to transparency and accountability.