O.C. supervisors vote to rename facility after controversial former Sheriff Sandra Hutchens weeks after death

Sandra Hutchens
Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens speaks to the media about the dangers of firing guns into the air to celebrate the New Year during a news conference at Brad Gates Forensic Science Building in Santa Ana in 2017.
(File Photo)

Orange County Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to rename a Sheriff’s Department training facility 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.”

Supervisors approved the item after each praised Hutchens for her decadelong term as sheriff.

“She came into the department at a very difficult time,” said Supervisor Don Wagner. “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 for attempting to obstruct a grand jury investigation and was accused 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 out.

Hutchens also oversaw the department during an evidence mishandling scandal, where several deputies failed to file evidence or filed it late, and a 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.

“Please choose something else to honor her. A training facility is not the appropriate action of recognizing her service. Please, I beg you, please do not further disgrace the death of my wife, and eight other victims from that day.”

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, who also spoke at the meeting, tweeted his support for the board’s decision after the meeting.

“Thank you to the Board of Supervisors for naming the OC Sheriff training facility the ‘Sandra Hutchens Regional Law Enforcement Training Center,’ Barnes said. “As deputies learn the best practices of our profession it is fitting they do so at a placed named for one of our profession’s best.”

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