The State Worker

State workers attacked by homeless people in Sacramento may carry pepper spray, state says

Capitol groundskeepers who have been attacked by homeless people recently may carry pepper spray, but the state won’t yet pay for it, according to a letter the California Department of General Services sent to the workers’ union.

The department said in a letter to the union that it has “yet to determine” whether it will provide pepper spray, along with training, as the union requested last month.

The International Union of Operating Engineers made the request in a grievance it filed with the department after reports that homeless people had attacked up to five groundskeepers in separate incidents.

In its response, the department reminded the union that all DGS employees are allowed to carry “pepper spray, mace and similar spray devices” under California law.

The union plans to keep pushing for the department to buy the workers pepper spray and train them on how to use it safely, said Brandy Johnson, a union representative.

The department has instituted new general training for workers on interacting with homeless people, including instructions to look out for one another and to call California Highway Patrol after an hour if someone won’t leave an area that needs cleaning.

The union also asked for incident reports related to the attacks. The department provided an injury log showing four attacks from homeless people since November, and added it is seeking complete reports from CHP.

The log shows a homeless person pulled one worker’s hair and cut another’s face on Sept. 9 in Capitol Park. Another worker was hit in the face Aug. 19 near an entrance to the Secretary of State building, and the fourth sustained a cut to his forehead after a woman threw change at him in Capitol Park in November, according to the log.

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Wes Venteicher anchors The Bee’s popular State Worker coverage in the newspaper’s Capitol Bureau. He covers taxes, pensions, unions, state spending and California government. A Montana native, he reported on health care and politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh before joining The Bee in 2018.
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