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O.C. Sheriff to cut record $20.5M

July 28, 2009 5:19:00 AM PDT
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens laid out her plans Tuesday for reducing spending by more than $20 million, the most significant in the department's history.Sheriff Hutchens stood before the Board of Supervisors to announce eight of her highest ranked employees will be let go.

"I am laying off two assistant sheriffs and six captains for a total of 42 percent of our command staff," said Hutchens.

They have not yet been named, but will be notified next month. The layoffs to save more than $2 million come just one year after Hutchens took office.

Hutchens says the only other choice was to lay off 16 investigators and two sergeants.

"I was very uncomfortable with cutting investigator positions because those are crucial to solving crimes, doing it quickly, getting bad guys off the street," said Hutchens.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department was asked to slash $28 million, the largest cut of any department.

Hutchens describes the mood among employees as nervous.

"They don't know who's going," said Hutchens. "There's lots of speculation as you might imagine, lots of rumors. We're trying to get as much information out to them as we can."

An additional 25 to 30 employees will be laid off. Plus, more than 50 vacant jobs will disappear.

Nearly 200 workers will be affected, either through layoffs, demotions or shifting positions to reduce overtime.

The Central Women's Jail in Santa Ana is temporarily closed to save $6 million. More than 300 inmates are now next door at the Intake Release Center.

Plummeting sales tax revenue is being blamed for the cuts.

While one supervisor also suggested the sheriff look at furloughs at the jails to save money, others applauded what the county's top cop has planned.

"What you've done today has really gone far back to what you've said is to protect the public and you've done so, and I want to thank you for that," said Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

The sheriff says she is preparing for a $60 million cut in the 2010-11 budget, which could mean laying off investigators and those working on the streets.

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