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Review urges policy to combat California prison guards' off-duty problems with guns, alcohol

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SACRAMENTO, California — California's corrections department has a problem with off-duty prison guards brandishing or carrying firearms while they are intoxicated, the department's inspector general said Friday.

One correctional officer danced atop a bar while drunkenly flashing his gun several times at private citizens in the tavern.

Another drunken officer pointed a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun at a citizen's chest during an argument.

They are two of seven incidents since June 2014 that show the department needs to automatically and immediately revoke concealed carry permits for officers caught consuming alcohol while possessing weapons, the inspector general said.

"Such behavior is not only dangerous to the public but brings discredit to the department," Inspector General Robert Barton wrote in a report that tracks departmental and criminal investigations of Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees.

California correctional officers are designated as peace officers who are allowed to carry concealed weapons when they are off duty. Other state law enforcement agencies that grant concealed weapons permits already have revocation policies, he said, and he recommended the corrections department follow their lead.

It's the third time Barton has made the recommendation in the last 18 months, but the department said in its response that it is still working on "a statewide, comprehensive policy to address the issues surrounding concealed weapons permits."

Meanwhile, Barton said the incidents keep piling up:

— A correctional officer was found to have a handgun in his pants pocket when he was arrested for being drunk and urinating outside a business.

— An officer was arrested for child endangerment after he drunkenly left guns scattered around his house where his three children could find them, including a loaded firearm in a toy box.

— A drunken officer fired a shotgun into the ground outside his home.

— An officer driving drunk assaulted and threatened to shoot a citizen during an alleged "road-rage" incident. The same officer drove to another location brandishing a handgun.

— An officer was arrested for driving drunk after police found him crouched behind his parked running vehicle with his cellphone in one hand and a handgun in the other.

Barton wrote that the cases demonstrate an ongoing problem of off-duty officers having weapons while they are intoxicated.

He said the department also needs to develop tighter gun safety rules for on-duty officers, after incidents last year in which correctional officers accidently fired weapons. He said such cases should be routinely investigated.

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