San Bernardino official amends his 'lock doors, load guns' remark
San Bernardino’s city attorney Monday hedged -- a wee bit -- his comment last week that residents should “lock their doors and load their guns” because of rising crime and cuts to the police force triggered by the city’s bankruptcy.
James Penman, known as one of the city’s more outspoken elected officials, first bristled at the suggestion that he was a fear-monger.
"As good a job as our police officers do, as well trained as they are, as effective as they are, there are just not enough of them," Penman said at a City Council meeting. "And there are too many criminals in our town."
Penman said he still believes his comment to a neighborhood group last week was sound advice but wanted to "correct some misinformation."
“When I tell people to go home and lock your doors and load your guns, I’m talking to people who own guns. Because, obviously, if you don’t have a gun in your house, you’re not going to load it," Penman said. "I do not advocate that people who do not have guns, or who do not know how to use guns, should pick up a firearm that’s been in the cabinet for years and load it. Or go out and buy one. That would be irresponsible."
Penman said there was a report of a recent home invasion robbery in San Bernardino in which the residents called police and were told that an officer was not available to respond for three hours. If residents find themselves in a similar situation, Penman said, it’s “absolutely a personal decision” about how they should defend themselves.
It wasn't Penman's first ear-popping remark. In July, after the City Council voted to file for federal bankruptcy protection, Penman alleged that city financial reports had been falsified for years, masking the city's deficit spending. Days later he amended his statement, saying he was unsure if there had been intentional wrongdoing.
Last week the City Council, facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall, voted to slash more than $26 million in spending and freeze debt payments as the municipality struggles to stay afloat as it winds through the federal bankruptcy process.
The austerity plan freezes vacancies in the Police Department even as the city deals with an increase in violent crime. The city had already stopped making payments to CalPERS, the state's public employee pension fund, after filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1.
-- Phil Willon in Riverside
Photo: San Bernardino City Atty. James Penman. Source: City of San Bernardino