With her department under federal investigation and the ACLU calling for her resignation, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced Tuesday that she will step down at the end of her term next year rather than seek reelection.
Hutchens was appointed sheriff in 2008, in the wake of the conviction of predecessor Mike Carona on corruption charges. The first woman to hold the post, she was widely praised as a stabilizing force in the department. She easily won election in 2010 and won an uncontested reelection bid in 2014.
But troubles have been growing over the past two years, with both the state and federal justice departments launching investigations into alleged misuse of jailhouse informants by the Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Offices. There was also criticism surrounding the escape of three inmates last year and then Tuesday, the ACLU issued a scathing report on the county jails, citing excessive violence and unhealthy living conditions while calling for Hutchens to resign.
Hutchens, 62, acknowledged inadequate deputy training contributed to possible procedural lapses with the informants, but has denied it was a systemic, premeditated abuse as some have alleged. The county grand jury last week issued a report supporting Hutchens’ position.
She is scheduled to testify next week in a special hearing to determine whether deputies destroyed or withheld informant-related evidence in the case of confessed Seal Beach killer Scott Dekraai. Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals said Hutchens needs to explain her department’s role in the misuse of jailhouse informants and the shredding of potential evidence.
Her political consultant, Dave Gilliard, said the criticisms and investigations played “no role whatsoever” in Hutchens’ decision to retire.
“She has 40 years in law enforcement under her belt, never planned to serve for more than 10 years as sheriff and has been planning an announcement for some time now,” Gilliard said.
Fred Smoller, a Chapman…