State Senate Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Loni Hancock introduced a bill today that would strip the sworn peace-officer status from attorneys and auditors at the state Office of the Inspector General, the independent agency watchdogging the state prison system.
Hancock, D-Berkeley, says her SB 490 would save the state $3.7 million by eliminating the more generous benefits, training and equipment – including guns and cars – provided to the OIG’s 105 attorneys and auditors. In contrast, fewer than five of the Attorney General’s 1,200 attorneys and auditors have peace-officer status.
“This bill starts the process of eliminating the abuse of peace office status in state government and the resulting waste of taxpayer dollars,” Hancock said in a news release. “I want to insure that the Office of the Inspector General continues to carry out its work in a cost-effective manner. I do not believe that peace officer status for their attorneys and auditors is necessary.”
A report issued Nov. 30 by the Senate Office of Oversights and Outcomes entitled, “Gun-toting Auditors and Attorneys: Does the Inspector General Need 105 Armed Peace Officers?” found that outfitting each attorney and auditor with guns, holsters, handcuffs, ammunition and related equipment costs more than $2,000 per employee. The report also found their state-issued cars logged more than 700,000 miles for home-to-work commutes at no cost to the employees, representing about 70 percent of their total mileage.
The state Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee today unanimously approved a motion from Hancock – who chairs its Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary – to reduce the OIG’s budget by $3.4 million and reduce the number of sworn officers in the agency to 25 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
OIG Chief Deputy Inspector Donald Currier told the Los Angeles Times last November that the office is willing to give up the guns and cars but not its peace-officer pensions, as the job still has risky assignments. “They’re not typical police duties, like CHP officers pulling people over all the time who they don’t know,” Currier said, “but their job is to ferret out criminal wrongdoing in prisons, including abuse of force by correctional officers.” The Times noted, however, that the state Senate report indicated other auditors who investigate criminal wrongdoing at public agencies do so without peace officer status.
UPDATE @ 4:55 P.M.: Hancock’s office clarified that her bill would prevent future OIG hires from getting the more generous pension plans available to peace officers, but current workers’ pensions are legally protected under current agreements. The $3.7 million figure doesn’t include any pension savings, just training and equipment.