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O.C. Sheriff outlines changes in 1st year

June 22, 2009 1:00:23 PM PDT
Orange County's appointed Sheriff Sandra Hutchens Monday outlined changes made in the embattled department since taking over after her predecessor, former Sheriff Michael Carona, was indicted on federal corruption charges.Hutchens said policies are in place to make the department more accountable and free of corruption. Citing one example, under Hutchens's direction, deputies who see use of force are now required to report the incident unlike before when there was no such requirement.

Hutchens also said she is looking to secure a potentially lucrative contract with the federal government where Orange County would provide about 600 beds for immigrants released from jails who are facing deportation hearings. The Sheriff's Department is facing its own budget problems and Hutchens said this is one way for the department to generate funds.

She also addressed the fallout after Carona's departure. Hutches said that the FBI was contacted to determine if the corruption indictments stopped with Carona or if she had to worry about other members of her newly-inherited staff.

"Because I didn't know, and they said no, we're done," Hutchens said. "And so after a year, I will tell you that the corruption was confined to the office of the sheriff, and some of the command staff."

Hutchens is also reviewing all the concealed-weapons permits issued by Carona, a source of much controversy when she inherited the job. Many questioned who was qualified to carry concealed weapons and why. Hutchens said the new policy applies to those who have demonstrated a good cause to carry a concealed weapon.

Hutchens was appointed to the post by the Board of Supervisors in June 2008, roughly six months after Carona resigned, to fill the remainder of his term. Hutchens needs to run for the job in 2010 and be approved by voters if she wants to stay.

In April, Carona was convicted of witness tampering and sentenced more than five years in prison. He is appealing.

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