O.C. sheriff to probe security camera’s use


Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has launched an investigation into the behavior of a sheriff’s investigator who videotaped a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, zooming in on one supervisor’s notes and the text messages on another’s BlackBerry.

The investigator had been asked to use a boardroom security camera to observe the audience as supervisors discussed layoffs and the sheriff’s recent crackdown on concealed weapon permits.

Hutchens said she didn’t know why the investigator chose to focus the camera on Supervisors Chris Norby and Janet Nguyen, and said she alerted both when she became aware of the footage.


Norby, who has sparred with Hutchens in the past, said he regarded the behavior as odd and bordering on spying. “It’s like ‘1984,’ ” he said.

Nguyen said she was “very disturbed” by the incident, which she referred to as a “breach of protocol” by the Sheriff’s Department.

She said that her staff would request a copy of the tape, and that she would review it to determine whether there was an invasion of her privacy or some other criminal violation.

“It does raise many concerns and questions about the board meeting protocol and staff control at the Sheriff’s Department,” Nguyen said. “My private communications and personal notes are not public record.”

The Jan. 13 meeting featured stepped-up security because of recent community tensions over layoffs ordered by the county and concealed weapons revocations ordered by the Sheriff’s Department, Hutchens said.

The camera, typically operated by security guards, was handled by a sheriff’s investigator during the roughly four-hour meeting, Hutchens said. The investigator primarily used the camera to pan the audience for any suspicious or unusual activity, she said.


Earlier this week, a concealed weapons group called Ordinary California Citizens Concerned With Safety filed a public records request for the security tape.

While reviewing the tape, sheriff’s officials noticed that the camera zoomed in on paperwork on Norby’s desk and Nguyen’s BlackBerry. Hutchens said neither the paperwork nor the BlackBerry can be read.

Hutchens was alerted about the tape late Tuesday, and she informed both supervisors Wednesday.

She launched the internal investigation and notified Stephen Connolly of the Orange County Office of Independent Review, which will be monitoring the investigation.

“I have asked to see if there’s any policy that governs use of those cameras,” Hutchens said. “And for the future, it is my belief that none of those cameras should ever be trained on any supervisor’s desk or written materials. They’re only used for a security reason.”

Connolly said the Sheriff’s Department has pledged to give him full access to the investigation as it unfolds so he can make recommendations and assess its outcome.


“It’s not just who did what to whom, but also, is this an appropriate practice?” Connolly said. “I certainly have the sense that the sheriff has identified the issues and recognized the issues. I’m going to be working to make sure the department takes this very seriously.”

Norby said the security camera issue would be addressed at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting as part of a routine annual protocol review.