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Orange County sheriff seeks a few good women

October 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Maria Mayares was among more than 50 women and nearly 500 men recently taking the test at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin.

Women make up just 11 percent of the Orange County Sheriff's Department sworn workforce.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens says she believes more women aren't trying out because of misconceptions about the job.

"In terms of getting more females into law enforcement, it's a struggle," Hutchens said. "You're not in a fight every five minutes. Law enforcement is mostly about talking to people, and women are very good at communicating. The opportunities in this department are huge."

With the women's jail reopening and the department hiring for the first time in two years - and the starting salary for a deputy sheriff trainee $53,498 plus great benefits - hundreds are hoping for a job.

"It gives my three boys a good role model to follow," said Long Beach Kelly Haws, a potential recruit.

The obstacle course, which I also took on, was challenging, with just two minutes to finish a variety of tasks that test balance agility and strength. Potential recruits must drag 165 pounds over 45 feet and run a mile in less than 10 minutes.

In another part of the test, potential recruits have to do 30 pushups and 30 sit-ups within five minutes.

"I flew 3,000 miles from New Jersey because I would love to try a new career change," said Jennifer Turiello, hoping to land a spot.

Recruiters say Turiello, a physical education teacher, looks promising, and so does Mayares, who already passed the written test, although she clearly struggled with the six-foot wall.

"At one point I was like, 'I should just get down,' and then I was like, 'I'm already here. Just get it over with,'" Mayares said.

Mayares managed to get over the wall.

"We want them to join our team, so we're rooting them on every bit of the way," said Dep. Heather Killion, a recruiter for the sheriff's department.

Less than half will move on to the oral tests.

"I'm disappointed, extremely" Turiello said. "On my 29th pushup, my right arm cramped. My arm just gave out."

Mayares advanced.

"Tired, but happy at the same time that I passed," Mayares said with a laugh.

But nearly two weeks later, Mayares failed an extensive background exam.

Haws was among 11 women and 230 men who move on to the oral tests. They were one step closer to becoming a deputy.