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Do Inspectors and Lawyers Need to Pack Heat?

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A state Senate investigation finds over 100 members of the state Office of Inspector General, charged with investigating state prisons, armed and perked as full-fledged "peace officers" for no apparent good reason.

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Details on the costs of this practice from the Sacramento Bee:

The Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes found that two-thirds of the OIG's 150 employees carry a badge and gun. New lawyer and inspector hires go through 150 hours of law enforcement training and each receive $2,000 worth of equipment, including a gun and body armor. No one at OIG has fired a gun or arrested anyone while on assignment in five years.

The peace officer jobs come with state-paid cars that the report says have been used mostly for work commutes.

Inspector General David Shaw said that the perks, including the enhanced pension benefits that peace officers receive, help recruit employees to distasteful jobs evaluating prison conditions. Still, in a cost-cutting move, the office has ordered some staffers to turn in their guns and cars. The job classifications - and pensions that go with them - aren't changing.

More details from California Watch on the expense and the pointlessness:

The state's top prison watchdog has spent tens of thousands of dollars arming its auditors and lawyers with semiautomatic weapons and body armor under a "questionable" rationale that "presumes gun-toting auditors and lawyers will engage in police functions such as hand-to-hand combat and high-speed pursuits," according to a report released yesterday by the state Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes....

Among other things, the report found that although no OIG peace officer has fired a gun or made an arrest in five years, the office spent more than $36,000 last year on ammunition, plus thousands more on weapons and training. One OIG staffer shot himself while putting in required time at the firing range.....

The state Attorney General's office, meanwhile, classifies fewer than five of its 1,150 or so lawyers as peace officers, and only one is armed.

The L.A. Times has the specifics on the pension benefits of being a peace officer vs. a mere lawyer for the state:

The biggest benefit of peace officer status is the pension. Most public employees are eligible to collect 2% of their annual salary, multiplied by the number of years they worked, starting at age 55. As an acknowledgement of the risks inherent in their jobs, police and firefighters can start collecting 3% of their annual salary, multiplied by the number of years worked, at age 50.

The full report from the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes.

Past City of Angles blogging on the California's general overgenerous pension problems.

Image taken by Flickr user Alexis Reilly. Used under user Creative Commons license.

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