Police, Fire Chiefs: ‘Unknowns’ Won’t Stop San Bernardino Services

SAN BERNARDINO (CBS) — Authorities in San Bernardino pledged on Thursday to continue providing emergency services to residents just days after the city declared bankruptcy.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports officials do expect to lose some police officers and firefighters in coming weeks, but no one knows what the numbers will be yet.

Police Chief Rob Handy and Fire Chief Paul Drasil met with the media outside the San Bernardino Police Department to address lingering questions about how the city will keep emergency personnel on the streets after filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday.

Handy said while he expects to lose about 20 officers over the next year through retirements and attrition, but it remains unclear whether any staffing cuts loom ahead.

“I’m not sure what we’re facing,” he said. “I think we’re all in for some unknowns here in the future, so we’re going to make adjustments as we go.”

Drasil was also uncertain to the filing’s impact on the fire department, though he does expect to lose firefighters through attrition.

Residents could face slower response times from gang, narcotics and other officers who work to prevent crimes, Handy warned.

Official estimates have placed the cost of continuing city operations through this fiscal year at $166 million as revenues were projected at about $120 million, leaving 209,000 residents to wonder whether they will receive basic city services.

Mayor Patrick Morris — who has faced criticism for his handling of the crisis — told KCAL9’s Kara Finnstrom that unions should revisit their contracts with San Bernardino to push back the age that pensions take effect from 50 to 60 years old.

“Our labor contracts that were negotiated years ago particularly with police and fire are simply unaffordable,” said Morris, who said the city is also considering outsourcing those services to the county to reduce costs.

But both Handy and Drasil assured the public that despite the economic upheaval, they will remain focused on their core operations.

“Our priority will be to respond first to emergency calls for service, and then do follow-up investigations on violent crimes and property crimes,” said Handy.

San Bernardino is now the third California city in less than a month to seek bankruptcy protection.

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