A new report blasts the "questionable wisdom" of giving guns and cars to lawyers and auditors at the Office of Inspector General and classifying them as peace officers.
We touched on the policy in last week's State Worker column, noting that the OIG has started relieving some employees of their firearms and going from take-home cars to a motor pool system. But the office isn't changing anyone's peace officer status.
Today's highly critical 53-page report, published by the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, goes into more detail and recommends that the state re-examine whether lawyers and inspectors should get the guns, cars and pensions that police and firefighters receive.
We found that the peace-officer designation stems from the unsupported premise that OIG staff must be prepared to stave off violence and wield weaponry. In reality, such actions seldom if ever arise in these job categories. We also found that OIG uses peace officer perquisites - generous pensions and take-home state cars - to attract and retain its professional team of lawyers and auditors.
Among the report's findings:
- Of the 150 positions in the Office of the Inspector General, 105 are sworn peace officers. The Penal Code was amended in 2009 specifically to include the 27 lawyers in the OIG's Bureau of Independent Review.
- The office's auditors have been peace officers since the OIG was established, along with the Inspector General himself.
- New OIG peace officers put in over 150 hours of law enforcement training.
- The handguns, body armor, parkas and other items they receive cost $2,000 per employee.
- Last year, the office spent $36,000 for ammunition.
- No OIG peace officer has fired a gun or made an on-the-job arrest in the last five years.
- Inspector General David Shaw exempted his entire office from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2009 order to reduce the state vehicle fleet because his officers have "24-hour roll-out responsibilities for critical services." OIG purchased 46 new cars over the past two years.
- All OIG peace officers get a state car with a home-storage permit. Their roundtrip commutes collectively total more than 3,000 miles a day, all at the state's expense.
- Most of the miles logged on the cars is for the home-to-office commute. Staff don't have to pay income tax on this fringe benefit because they carry their guns with them to the office under IRS rules.
Shaw says his staff need peace officer status, according to the report. The designation gives them equal footing with the correctional officers they monitor in CDCR, assures unfettered access to incidents and inmates, affords training for how to handle themselves in dangerous environs or protect themselves from a vengeful correctional officer who has been disciplined.
He also says that the enhanced peace officer pension and take-home cars are important recruiting perks.
Click here to read the report by Oversight and Outcomes' Dorothy Korber.