Joel R. Glucksman
September 11, 2012
Municipal bankruptcy filings can have a significant impact on the lives of citizens who reside in these areas, as evidenced by the potential mass exodus of the police force in Stockton, California.
The California city, which filed for Chapter 9 protection under bankruptcy law
in June, was already struggling to manage its staggering crime rate prior to its financial troubles. However, in the midst of a growing crime wave, the city is now exploring options to prevent its police force from abandoning their posts during its bankruptcy proceedings. City manager Bob Deis recently sent a letter to California Governor Jerry Brown, warning him that the city is on the brink of chaos, which underscores the state legislature’s need to resolve pension issues that affect the police force, according to the Huffington Post.
The bankrupt city may be forced to slash pension benefits for current and retired workers to meet its obligations to creditors. If this occurs, city officials say it may prompt the area’s most experienced officers to leave the municipality and seek employment elsewhere. In recent years, the Stockton Police Force shrank by 25 percent and saw salaries and benefits dwindle as a result of pay cuts, the news source explains. Furthermore, violent crime – including assaults on police officers – has surged as a result of the shrinking ranks of the police.
In addition, the bankruptcy filing has prompted many service providers, such as gas stations, to stop extending services to public workers, fearing that they can no longer pay for them. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times noted that many Stockton police officials and firefighters have been unable to fill their gas tanks due to cancelled contracts with gas companies.
The scenario underscores the heavy impact of municipal bankruptcies on state workers and citizens who rely on public servants for safety and protection.