In a historic break from a male-dominated, conservative past, Orange County, Ca., supervisors yesterday named a woman and former Los Angeles County cop to lead its troubled Sheriff’s Department and help bury the legacy of its indicted former sheriff, reports the Los Angeles Times. Sandra Hutchens, a 53-year-old retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s division chief, becomes the 12th sheriff of Orange County and the first woman to hold the position. She pledged to be an agent of change in a department that has suffered through scandals, criminal indictments, and withering criticism.
The vote puts her in charge of California’s second-largest sheriff’s department, replacing Michael Carona in what supervisors hope will signal an era free of the turmoil that marked his nine-year reign. Carona, who resigned in January, is facing federal corruption charges. Hutchens won the job in a 3-2 vote, edging longtime Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters, whom many considered to be the front-runner in the county’s nationwide search. Supervisors agreed that the department needed radical change. Carona’s indictment was the crowning blow in a series of scandals that included the conviction and jailing of an assistant, the gang rape trial of another assistant’s son, and a grand jury investigation that depicted Orange County’s largest jail as nearly barbaric, with inmates enforcing the rules and some jailers napping or watching television instead of making their rounds. One inmate was beaten to death as a jailer watched the television show “Cops.”