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Hutchens named new O.C. sheriff

June 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Retired L.A. County Sheriff's Division Chief Sandra Hutchens has been named the new sheriff of Orange County.Hutchens will be the first female sheriff to lead Orange County, the state's second largest sheriff's department. She replaces former Sheriff Mike Carona, who resigned in January after he was indicted on corruption charges.

Click the Eyewitness News Story Window above to watch Eileen Frere's report from Santa Ana.

All of the county supervisors agreed that the two final candidates for sheriff had a lot of experience and leadership skills, but in the end it came down to a vote of 3-2 in favor of Sandra Hutchens.

Supervisors Patricia Bates, Janet Nguyen and Chair John Moorlach voted for Sandra Hutchens, a 53-year-old retired division chief in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Hutchens, a Dana Point resident, retired about a year ago but decided to run for sheriff after reading multiple stories on the scandals and alleged corruption in the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

She was with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department for 29 years with oversight of homeland security, emergency operations and other divisions. At least one of the O.C. Supervisors said it was her public and private interviews that won them over.

Supervisors Chris Norby and Bill Campbell voted for Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, who has been with the department for 36 years. Walters ran against Mike Carona 10 years ago for sheriff, but lost by just six percentage points. He had the endorsement of the Orange County Chiefs and Sheriffs Association and the support of two Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors had to choose a new sheriff from 48 candidates after Mike Carona resigned as sheriff in January to focus on defending himself against federal corruption charges.

The sheriff's department has been rocked by scandal, including a recent grand jury report into an inmate death at the Theo Lacy Facility. The report found there was laziness among some deputies after an inmate was beaten to death while deputies were allegedly watching movies and not monitoring inmates.

Hutchens says the report is one of her biggest concerns that she wants to address right away.

"Certainly the jail operations has been in the news of late, so that is a place where I'm going to start and do an audit of that. The other area is the culture. There's concerns about the culture in the department that would allow something like that to occur, and I'm certainly going to take a look at that," said Hutchens.

Hutchens has worked as a deputy, a sergeant and a lieutenant at the Sybil Brand Institute, a facility which houses about 900 female inmates.

Hutchens says she also plans to do an internal and external assessment of the department, including meeting with every deputy to hear their concerns.

She's not yet wearing her stars but she plans to start work Tuesday. She plans to meet with the acting Sheriff Jack Anderson to get an assessment. Anderson has been filling in as sheriff since Carona left.

Hutchens says Anderson has been doing a great job as acting sheriff, and there's no reason why he shouldn't be working with the department.

 

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