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When California Passes the Baton Holder

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David Depaolo published an article this morning in his blog discussing “Job Satisfaction and Ability”, where he competently proselytizes his belief that high job satisfaction often equates to fewer disability issues. As he puts it, “happy employees result in much less ‘disability’."

It is a good article, and I don’t argue with him, as we are in complete agreement on that point. However, Mr. Depaolo inadvertently, and I am sure, unintentionally, provided me much fodder for my own blog with his post.

My issue today is about the political correctness that permeates the tale.

David describes a California Correctional Officer who is injured in a non-work related car accident. This correctional officer is a Lieutenant, and his position and pay grade are bestowed the title “Peace Officer”. Because the car accident resulted in a permanent impairment and limited mobility with the man’s left shoulder and arm, the state ultimately demoted the officer as he failed key function tests required to maintain the position of Peace Officer.

Depaolo recounts the lengthy steps this employee engaged in to regain his position, including the prerequisite request for accommodation and the ultimate lawsuit claiming a violation of his rights when that did not occur. The courts ultimately backed the state, and the man lost. But I am not talking about that.

What struck me most was the key function this “Peace Officer” could not adequately perform due to his injury. It seems that all California “Peace Officers” must pass an annual certification for the handling of a baton. His limited mobility prevented him from doing that, and he was demoted to a lower, “non-peace officer” position.

Ok, so a California “Peace Officer” has to have the ability to effectively beat a person senseless with a baton, while a “non-peace officer” doesn’t. I would think that would be the other way around. Furthermore, as this man’s attempts to return to his position continued, he was at one point offered, and accepted, a position as an “Associate Government Program Analyst” at the “California Institute for Men”.

Now, I have no idea what an Associate Government Program Analyst does, and I was even more flummoxed by the California Institute for Men. I had no idea there was such a thing. My imagination immediately seized on this concept. Think of it. An Associate Government Program Analyst at an Institute for Men. I imagine one in such a position would likely assess the quality of beer and cigars served, or what the official brand of golf ball would be. Perhaps they would be responsible for coordinating evening excursions to places where men like to spend their free time (if you know what I mean). Or this person might be responsible for the Member Protection Program, where phone center workers would convincingly tell wives their husbands “aren’t here right now”.

I dare say that an Associate Government Program Analyst at an Institute for Men would probably be one of the most popular people at the Center, if they did their job right.

But hold on, this is government linguistics in the era of new thought speech. Words no longer mean what they once did. It turns out that the California Institute for Men is a prison. The big house. The rock. Sing Sing in the sing along state. And while I have no idea what an Associate Government Program Analyst does, I suspect that arranging evening jaunts to strip clubs for Institute “members” is likely not within its parameters.

No wonder the guy was unhappy in this position. Much better to be a Peace Officer, where all the violent fun is.

I certainly do not question the need for a prison guard to have the ability to freely womp away on some miscreant with a baton when needed. I just find amusement at the notion that the “Peace Officer” is the one who has to do it. Perhaps the prison system slogan is “Strength Through Peace (Officers)”.  Certainly makes more sense than Peace Through Strength Officers, which I suspect they used when Ronald Reagan was their Governor. I can hear the radio call now; “Send us more Peace Officers! We’re getting our fannies handed to us down here!”

And the “California Institute for Men”? (OK, a Google search shows the title also as the “California Institution for Men”, but I found credible sources (plus Depaolo) who refer to it as the “California Institute for Men”) Are we afraid of offending the gentler sensibilities of its residents? Is being labeled a resident of a prison too scarring, and bad for self esteem? God forbid we call them “Prisoners”. I’m sure somewhere they are referred to internally as “guests”.

And there, my friends, is a tale of incarceration on the left coast. Peace Officers “assisting guests” at the “institute” with influential encouragement from their friendly baton’s.

Makes you wonder. Next time I wish for Peace on Earth, I may find myself looking over my shoulder.

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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.

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