Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/05/2012 09:11:03 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – The City Council voted Monday to ask the Sheriff’s Department how much it would cost to outsource policing services, a decision opposed by most of the more than 20 residents and officers who spoke.

But it’s time to make tough decisions, the council majority said, in a meeting heavily shadowed by the threat of losing bankruptcy protection after a tense hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside that morning.

City Attorney James F. Penman and Mayor Pat Morris, who attended the hearing along with Councilwomen Wendy McCammack and Virginia Marquez, repeatedly warned of the dire consequences of not demonstrating the city’s seriousness about balancing its budget.

“If we can’t get into bankruptcy court and the protection provided by Chapter 9 we will have no city,” Morris said.

The decision would give the sheriff six to 12 months to prepare a set of detailed cost analyses, but in general the same officers would be employed for roughly the same pay, Penman said, based on a meeting with sheriff’s officials. That would have to be followed by a citizen vote to amend the charter, which would otherwise block the outsourcing.

Normally, Penman said, he also would strongly oppose the move.

“My hat is off to the men and women of our police department… I’ve always strongly opposed outsourcing,” Penman said, but bankruptcy protection is vital. “(Without bankruptcy protection), our creditors will descend on us like ants on a jelly sandwich.”

Morris said he wasn’t sure whether outsourcing was the right decision, but it was vital to at least look at the numbers.

Four members of the council agreed. Councilmen Robert Jenkins, John Valdivia and Chas Kelley opposed the motion.

Judge Meredith Jury said in court that city needed to file a brief by Nov. 30 arguing to eliminate or consolidate many of the reasons creditors had said the city wasn’t eligible for bankruptcy.

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