Orange County to rename training facility after controversial late Sheriff Sandra Hutchens
An Orange County Sheriff’s Department training facility will be renamed after controversial former Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who died of breast cancer earlier this month.
The Katella Training Facility in Orange will now be known as the Sandra Hutchens Regional Law Enforcement Training Center.
Orange County supervisors voted unanimously to approve the name change after each praised Hutchens for her decade-long term as sheriff.
“She came into the department at a very difficult time,” Supervisor Don Wagner said Tuesday. “She restored honor, not to the badge, not to the department, because the men and women of the department had never lost it under prior leadership, but she did restore it to leadership.”
Hutchens was hired in 2008 as a “change agent” to replace former Sheriff Mike Carona, who was convicted of attempting to obstruct a grand jury investigation and was accused, though eventually acquitted, of accepting secret cash payments and providing badges and concealed weapons licenses to campaign contributors.
But Hutchens’ department was plagued by several scandals, including a jailhouse informant scandal that led to Scott Dekraai, who was responsible for the worst mass shooting in Orange County history, to be spared the death penalty. Other convictions were also tossed.
Hutchens, 65, had battled the disease for part of her tenure as sheriff and used her health crisis to help educate the public.
Hutchens also oversaw the department during an evidence mishandling saga, where several deputies failed to file evidence or filed it late, and another scandal where deputies were accused of improperly listening in on phone calls that jail inmates made to their attorneys.
She announced her retirement in 2017 after the American Civil Liberties Union released a report on inhumane conditions in Orange County jails.
Paul Wilson, whose wife was one of the eight people killed by Dekraai, spoke out against the renaming of the facility at Tuesday’s board meeting after the board had already approved the item.
“I can understand the idea of wanting to commemorate in the name of someone who has passed,” Wilson said. “It’s nice to see Don Barnes expressed that sympathy, but it’s not the right place. Sheriff Hutchens left her post well-involved in three major scandals that clearly began during her tenure — the snitch scandal, the phone scandal and the evidence-booking scandal. All of these are major failures of training. These failures are as great as those that have occurred in any law enforcement agency in the entire United States.
“The evidence scandal is about the failure of personnel to follow policy and law regarding the handling of evidence. It makes no sense to attach Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ name to a training facility if the message moving forward in this county is that we want our law enforcement members to always follow the rules and laws of this county and of the nation,” Wilson said.
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, who also spoke at the meeting, tweeted his support of the board’s decision after the meeting.
Brazil writes for Times Community News.
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