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Alcohol sales enforcers get heavy-duty protection
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SACRAMENTO . (AP) — The state agency that regulates alcohol sales purchased more than $70,000 worth of gas masks and bullet-resistant helmets for its officers, even though the nature of their work rarely exposes them to gunfire, a newspaper reported Monday.

Nearly three-quarters of the arrests by Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents from July 2010 to March 2012 involved selling or giving alcoholic beverages to minors.

The agency regulates alcohol sales through undercover stings at bars, restaurants and retailers.

When the nature of the work puts them in the line of fire, the agents almost always call police, the Bee said.

The department, however, said the equipment is essential to the safety of its 132 agents — who are law enforcement officers.

"We want to make sure that our agents have the protective equipment they need so they can go home at night," said Tim Gorsuch, the department's chief deputy director.

The agency doesn't track agent-involved shootings, but Gorsuch recalled five incidents in nine years. He said officers are rarely in gunfights because they know when to pull back.

The department's $55 million budget relies on licensing fees from about 115,000 businesses that sell, import or manufacture alcohol.

Records obtained by the Bee found the department ordered 170 ballistic helmets from Los Angeles-based Botach Tactical in October 2011 at a cost of about $46,700. It received the gas masks from Chico-based DirectGov Source in August. The cost was about $25,500.

The department used to borrow such equipment from other agencies when working higher-risk assignments as part of drug task forces, the newspaper said.

Gorsuch said the department doesn't track how many times its agents have taken on those roles.