“I am somewhat uncertain as to why you would question the way our respective offices handle internal investigations,” Hutchens wrote in her a letter—which the sheriff’s office refused to share with me even after I filed a formal California Public Records Act request. (I obtained the letter through other law-enforcement sources.)

Perhaps, Sandra, the answer to your wonderment is elementary: Rackauckas questioned this investigation because the conduct of the OCSD in this case was, well, questionable.

Hutchens, who recently told Cameron Jackson, host of KUCI’s The OC Show, that she will seek election to her office in 2010, declined to field my questions about Stenger or the DA’s complaints. If she had, my first would have been: After all we’ve learned about deputy corruption and incompetence in recent years, can the public have confidence when one Orange County sheriff’s deputy controls the criminal investigation of another deputy?

Instead, Hutchens issued a short written statement that “acknowledged and accepted responsibility for missteps that had taken place,” claimed unspecified “appropriate measures were subsequently taken to ensure that there would be no recurrence of those missteps,” and reiterated what she told Rackauckas: Deputies investigating criminal complaints against deputies in the same department “is the standard for law-enforcement agencies throughout California.”

While Hutchens seems to be hiding behind the status quo, Rackauckas appears to want to play—at least in this circumstance—the role of reformer. We’ll have to see how this plays out, but for now, the DA is saying the right things.

“The Stenger investigation reveals the classic problem when a law-enforcement agency investigates its own,” Rackauckas says. “The perception of bias, whether fact or fiction, is an impediment to public confidence in law enforcement.”

 

rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

 

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