The head of the union that represents Orange County sheriff’s deputies and Orange County District Attorney investigators Monday said the esteem in which his rank-and-file members view their bosses has improved since an annual report was started three years ago.
Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs’ board, told City News Service, however, that he was “very disappointed” that Sheriff Sandra Hutchens will not meet with him and union representatives to discuss the annual Leadership Assessment Survey.
Messages left with two representatives of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s public information office were not returned, but in a memo last year Hutchens blistered the annual survey, which relies on anonymous questioning of deputies regarding their supervisors.
In the memo, Hutchens said she understood the report would provide “constructive” feedback to management, but found it ended up spotlighting comments “one would hear on a sixth-grade playground — not from a professional organization.”
Hutchens said she told Dominguez the survey should avoid “handpicking anonymous, derogatory comments as they were not constructive, but rather personal and hurtful in nature.” Hutchens said last year. She declined an invitation to discuss the report because of its “lack of validity and certainly a lack of statistical relevance.”
District Attorney’s Office officials have continued to discuss the report with Dominguez, but they wish it were more “scientifically based,” the union chief said.
Dominguez said the report is a good tool containing raw data that is helpful in improving relations between supervisors and deputies.
“We never claimed it was scientific,” Dominguez said. “It was just information we want to pass on to management to use as they see fit.”
Dominguez said the commentary in the report has shown many improved scores and that it “suggests our management team is doing a pretty good job, and I’m pretty proud of the results from the survey… Three quarters of managers were rated above average or exceptional so that’s a testament to the people we have in our management team.”
Dominguez said his members have reported that their supervisors are taking the criticism “to heart” and are improving.
For the first time, the survey asked deputies and investigators about their morale, Dominguez said. The overall morale for sheriff’s deputies was ranked at 2.99 on a scale of 1 to 5.
“It could be higher, of course,” Dominguez said. “We’d like it to be a lot higher… but on the flip side it could have been far worse.”
The sheriff’s department has come under fire, particularly over the past year, as it gets more bogged down in the so-called “snitch scandal” involving allegations of the way jailhouse informants were used to win convictions.
Among the District Attorney’s Office investigators the overall morale was 3.65 on a five-point scale.
Fifty-seven percent of the sheriff’s respondents said they thought their agency was going in the right direction, compared with 59 percent of DA investigators.
The deputies ranked overall team performance at 3.07 on a 5-point scale while the DA investigators scored it at 3.53.
Rankings of sheriff’s management has gone up from 3.80 in 2015 to 4.02 this year. The DA investigators ranked management at 3.96 this year, compared with 3.11 in 2015.
Assistant Sheriff Adam Powell, who supervisors the jailhouse informant program, was given a 4.25 rank this year on the 5-point scale. One commenter said he “truly cares about his people.”
Dominguez also praised Powell as a “genuine guy… I feel he’s very honest.”
Dominguez chalked up much of the issues with the informant scandal to poor training.
“I think as an agency they could have done a far better job managing discovery on these cases,” Dominguez said of the allegations that evidence about the informants was not turned over to defense attorneys as required.
Dominguez noted Hutchens blamed the problem on “significant training issues” and that she was taking steps to correct that.
“These deputies assigned to the jail — they’re not trained investigators,” Dominguez said. “They were probably getting involved in advanced investigative techniques without the training or knowledge.”
—City News Service
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