By Jon Ortiz The Sacramento Bee
Published: Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 – 7:36 am

Criticism rained down on the tiny Office of the Inspector General this week over its lawyers and auditors receiving peace officer status along with the guns, cars and enhanced pensions that go with it.

A tart report from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office hammered the policy. It looks like a hearing, the political equivalent of a public flogging, is coming. Maybe legislation.

The inspector general’s office oversees the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Its mission is to root out corruption, abuse and bad management in the state’s prison and parole systems. Safe to say that OIG inspectors don’t bring the kids on “Take Your Child to Work Day” when they’re on an assignment.

OIG has 150 employees and a $26 million budget. Corrections has 60,000 staff and roughly 300,000 offenders under its jurisdiction. Budget: $10 billion.

Last week this column reported that Inspector General David Shaw told his inspectors to turn in their guns and their take-home cars. However, the cost-cutting moves won’t immediately extend to changing the peace officer classification of those jobs.

That’s a big deal because peace officers can retire earlier with a higher percentage of their pay than most state workers.

Then, on Tuesday, Steinberg’s Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released “Gun-Toting Auditors and Attorneys: Does the Inspector General Need 105 Armed Peace Officers?”

The report noted that OIG spends tens of thousands of dollars on peace officer training and equipment annually, though no one there has fired a gun or made an on-the-job arrest in the last five years. The guns, cars and pensions are really unjustified recruiting and retention perks, the report concluded.

It rankled Shaw, who sent a staff e-mail that referred to the “obscure” oversight committee’s report that “directly attacks” the OIG’s use of peace officers: “Clearly, the folks who wrote this had an agenda and have carried it out with a vengeance.”

OIG plans to review its peace officer positions, Shaw’s chief deputy, Donald Currier, said Wednesday. If future hires could come in under a different classification and still do their work, so be it. After all, OIG is a watchdog, so “it would be pretty hypocritical to suggest that no one should look at us,” Currier said.

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