Sheriff Deputies & DA Investigators Get to Rate Their Leaders

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Orange County Sheriff’s deputies will soon get a chance to do something most people would love to do.

Rate their bosses.

The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the union representing more than 2,000 deputies and district attorney investigators, last week launched a survey aimed at allowing rank-and-file law enforcement officers to rate their own chain of command.

“AOCDS is providing you with the valuable opportunity to hold the managers of the Sheriff’s Department accountable for their leadership and overall performance,” read a Nov. 29 letter from the union’s board of directors, which accompanied a survey looking into lieutenants, captains, commanders, assistant sheriffs and directors at the agency.

Rank and file investigators for the Orange County District Attorney’s office also will also get to rate their commanders and assistant chiefs.

Department leaders will be rated on integrity, trustworthiness, communication, proaction, innovation, collaboration and caring. Specific comments on managers also will be sought.

The survey ends Dec. 12 and will be published in January both on the AOCDS website and in their monthly print publication, The Courier.

“The members of our association have a deep interest in improving their departments,” said AOCDS President Tom Dominguez. “This survey provides an unprecedented opportunity for the rank-and-file to provide candid and constructive feedback on the men and women who are responsible for overseeing the operations of the Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.”

There are some indications of rumblings amongst managers over having their subordinates rate them. The surveys are being sent to the homes of deputies and investigators who will be able to fill them out anonymously. The results will be tabulated by a third-party – Lavell Communication Inc. – and then shredded, AOCDS leaders told their members.

Since the 2008 federal indictment of former Sheriff Mike Carona, there has been a near total turnover of top managers at the department. According to sources, most of the agency’s Assistant Sheriff’s were Lieutenants just six years ago.

Lt. Jeff Hallock, president of the Association of County Law Enforcement Management, also known as ACLEM, declined comment on the matter.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens stood behind her managers and the assessment, saying it’s an industry practice that’s been in place at other departments for some time.

“I respect AOCDS’ right to conduct a survey of their members regarding our management staff,” Hutchens said. “This is not a new concept and has been done in other agencies, including my former department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

She went on to say that its important the survey be done professionally.

“AOCDS’ stated purpose for doing the survey is to provide constructive feedback to management,” she said. “I am confident in my management team and their dedication to the men and women who report to them and believe that the survey will be largely positive.”

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas declined comment through his chief spokeswoman.

The Orange County approach will be somewhat similar to what the Los Angeles County department has done for more than a decade, although LA only rates captains. In additon, AOCDS board members won’t write up comments on leaders, instead publishing what the rank and file directly said about their bosses.

“As law enforcement professionals, we should always strive to improve,” Dominguez said. “We are embracing the opportunity to take a look at how these departments are managed and what can be improved. The end result is the residents of Orange County will benefit from the improved law enforcement we will provide.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that six years ago, Orange County Assistant Sheriffs were sergeants. We regret the error.

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