THE STATE'S 'TOP COP' TOURS DEL NORTE

October 18, 2000 12:00 am

By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer visited Del Norte County on a sightseeing tour Tuesday.

During his tour, he held a meeting with District Attorney Robert J. Drossel and toured Pelican Bay State Prison.

Its a pleasure to have the Attorney General make an appearance in Del Norte County, Drossel said, calling Lockyer a very personable person.

Lockyer poked fun at the perception of him as Californias top cop, saying that he believes his function is more to support local district attorneys.

We provide support services to people on the front lines, he said, adding that we also try to be a part of a team.

Lockyer noted that Del Norte County, despite being small and rural, has a large connection to the Attorney Generals Office due to the existence of Pelican Bay State Prison.

The Department of Corrections is our second-largest client for our legal services, Lockyer said, adding that the Attorney Generals Office defended 2,000 Corrections personnel from lawsuits within the last year.

Lockyer said his office has embarked on a policy of risk management with an eye toward reducing the number of lawsuits faced by the California Department of Corrections (CDC).

He noted that most of the suits stemming from the CDC do not come from the use of force against prisoners, but rather from personnel issues, such as sexual harassment, which can be dealt with through special training sessions and other measures.

Lockyer also said he believed local and departmental investigations into incidents such as the Feb. 31 riot at Pelican Bay State Prison is sufficient, and that the Attorney Generals Office should not become involved in such matters.

Drossel had previously stated that he would like to look into the possibility of the Attorney Generals Office handling such matters.

Theres plenty of oversight, Lockyer said. He noted that he had made a proposal to allow counties with state prisons to choose whether to allow the Attorney Generals Office to oversee those investigations. That bill died in the state legislature, however.

Lockyer said he has visited 52 of Californias 58 counties, and spent last New Years Eve at San Quenton State Prison.

When asked about his further political aspirations, Lockyer said he has none past the Attorney Generals Office.