3 candidates for Orange County Sheriff gear up for primary election

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Three men are vying to replace Orange County sheriff Sandra Hutchens to lead the fifth largest sheriff's department in the country. (KABC)

Three men are vying to replace Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to lead the fifth-largest sheriff's department in the country.

As Hutchens retires, she's handpicked Undersheriff Don Barnes, who faces retired OCSD Sgt. and Aliso Viejo Mayor David Harrington and Duke Nguyen, an investigator for the L.A. District Attorney's Office.

Barnes said his management experience sets him apart, while the others say it's time for some fresh eyes.

"I'm the only candidate that has three decades of experience. I'm the only candidate with 13 years of management...and executive-level experience," said Barnes.

Barnes has been with the department for 29 years.

Harrington retired from the department as a sergeant in 2013 after 28 years.

"I'm enough a part of the culture to understand it, but enough of an outsider to be able to change it," said Harrington. "I don't think it needs drastic change, I think it needs to be nudged back into the direction of law enforcement."

Nguyen has been working in law enforcement for 26 years. He lives in Orange County.

"I'm here to bring new reform and realignment and also bring in the trust in our communities, when it comes to policing," said Nguyen.

Whoever wins this race will take over a department that's dealing with ongoing controversies and legal issues. Harrington and Nguyen are critical of the current leadership, especially when it comes to the handling of the informant scandal and the jail escape.

"You have leadership that...lack of management, and the leadership not holding them accountable for their actions," said Nguyen.

"Those type of failures really drove me to want to run, because I think we deserve better, I think tax payers deserve better, and I think victims deserve better," said Harrington.

Barnes said he's worked diligently with other command staff to resolve those issues.

"We've completely responded. Those issues do not exist anymore," said Barnes. "The Men's Central Jail has been completely revamped in policy and performance expectations," said Barnes.

Harrington said he wants to change the management culture at OCSD. Nguyen wants to stress transparency, calling for body cameras. Barnes said he's ready to build on positive changes.

"This race is simple: status quo vs reform. We're going to do a top-down, bottom-up review, we're going to look at every aspect of the department," said Harrington.

"I'm here to bring that quality of policing back to our communities, restoring that trust in our communities," said Nguyen.

"The areas we patrol have some of the lowest crime rates in the nation. I want to take what we've learned from there and implement best practices throughout the county," said Barnes.

The top two vote getters in Tuesday's election will move on to the November election. If one gets more than 50 percent of the vote next week, they will be named sheriff.
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