CONCERNED RESIDENT AIMS TO FORM ARMED MILITIA TO PATROL STOCKTON
By David Siders
April 07, 2009
Record Staff Writer
STOCKTON - A retired truck driver and Vietnam War veteran said Monday that he is forming an armed militia - mostly men with rifles and armbands, four to a car - to patrol Stockton this summer, when at least 43 police officers are to be laid off.
Alan Pettet, 66, said he has recruited 18 men, most of whom are ex-military. He said the militia will train at a firing range and "activate" if the city lays off any officer, as it intends by July 1.
The likelihood of an armed militia materializing is uncertain - there are legal concerns, and posturing to influence City Hall is not uncommon - but for a neighborhood activist even to advance such a proposal was indicative of frustration about Stockton's awful budget forecast. The City Council is expected by July 1, the start of fiscal 2009-10, to order police layoffs and spending reductions citywide to balance a general fund budget that is otherwise expected to be $31million in deficit by June 2010.
Pettet, a midtown neighborhood activist who has a Desert Eagle pistol, said militiamen will detain suspected criminals and call police to arrest them. They will wear armbands and will patrol in a car marked by a magnetic sign, he said.
"It's going to be 'Stockton Armed Militia,'" Pettet said. "'SAM' for short."
Neither the Police Department nor the city administration was impressed.
"We are not at the point that we need to have armed militias patrolling Stockton," Vice Mayor Kathy Miller said.
Mayor Ann Johnston said, "Oh, no no no no, no no no. ... We don't want armed citizens out there who are not trained."
That it is illegal in most circumstances in California to carry a loaded firearm in one's car did not disturb Pettet.
"If you look under the Constitution, a militia can be formed," he said. "Watch and see. Who's going to stop us?"
Attorney and anti-blight activist Ron Stein, who is a friend of Pettet's and has been advising him, said the militia will conform to state law, perhaps by having members seek permits to carry concealed handguns.
"You've got to do what you've got to do," Stein said.
Pettet said the militia will bill the city $350 per hour for its services. City Attorney Ren Nosky said he knew of no legal basis requiring the city to pay such a bill.
Nosky had other reservations, too.
"I just don't know if that's in the best interest of these gentlemen, from a safety perspective," he said. "We have a concern about the level of training that these gentlemen have, if any, especially in light of the firearms that they say they're going to be carrying."
Police encourage people to report crimes and form Neighborhood Watch groups, said Officer Pete Smith, a department spokesman. To form a militia is "taking it to another level," he said.
"It's ill advised," he said.
Stockton's violent crime rate is among the highest in the state. Stein and Pettet are critical of a budget proposal by City Manager Gordon Palmer that would require laying off at least 43 of the city's 403 police officers.
"We've got to protect ourselves," Stein said. "We are in the wild, wild West when you take people who are supposed to protect us off the street."
The telephone number Pettet is using for the militia is that of midtown's Safe Neighborhood Action Group, a group formed in the 1990s.
"You've reached the Safe Neighborhood Action Group," a recording at that number said. "Helping to protect Stockton citizens from their mayor and City Council."
Contact reporter David Siders at (209) 943-8580 or email@example.com