Has the Day Finally Come for OC to Get a Law Enforcement Watchdog?

Will Tuesday be the day they finally do it?

In December 2015, with the ongoing jailhouse snitch scandal making headlines, Orange County supervisors made a big deal about beefing up their oversight of law enforcement.

They expanded the role of the Office of Independent Review (OIR), the county’s tiny agency that’s supposed to probe potentially problematic practices within the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney and other agencies.

But in March 2016, Stephen Connolly — the OIR director – resigned under pressure from supervisors who were unhappy with his work. The office has had no staff ever since.

And, now, nine months later, with the jailhouse snitch scandal still making making headlines, supervisors finally appear to be close to naming his replacement.

The supervisors put the appointment on the agenda for their Jan. 10 meeting, yet ended up not doing anything. But it’s on the agenda again for Tuesday’s meeting, and at some point they’re bound to do something.

Whenever the OIR does get appointed, it will be interesting to see if he or she jumps into the snitch scandal, which is already a crowded place — with investigations by the feds, the state, and the county grand jury already underway.

One thing that does seem to be a pretty good bet is the new OIR launching a probe into the DA’s controversial DNA collection program, known as “spit and acquit.”

DA officials say it’s been instrumental in solving more serious crimes that they couldn’t have solved otherwise. The database has provided over 725 “investigative leads” to local law enforcement, according to Rackauckas’ office.

But the program has also sparked concerns about conflicts of interest, given that the DA’s office is collecting and analyzing the evidence it presents in court. And there’s a specific case in which a county crime lab scientist testified that the the DA’s office tried to manipulate DNA evidence to support its case against an innocent person.

The DA’s office disputed those claims.

Results of any appointment vote would be reported publicly after closed session, near the end of the meeting.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

  • verifiedsane

    Update 2/4/2017: Lap Dog deemed to have to many conflict fleas…search on new lap dog to help county cover up criminality and corruption…

  • OCservant_Leader

    Has the day finally come…for what? More…Circular Bureaucracy to allow this organized crime family to flourish? This is insanity.

    Until the career criminals are charged, prosecuted and stripped of their pensions…nothing will change.

    Even the last Sheriff’s conviction wasn’t a deterrent. So he was humiliated in public and had to go to the Country Club/Spa for a few years. So what? That’s part of the gig. He is a hero amongst this group. He is STILL pulling down more than $200k per year – folks. It’s all worth it.

    If just one or two are stripped of their pensions…NOW we will begin to see a real culture change in OC Government. Their pensions is their Achilles heel.

  • Paul Lucas

    Yes it is time. Its been time. For a long time.

  • LFOldTimer

    Mr. Gerda – the VOC should look on this new and improved OIR with HUGE skepticism if you are truly in the business of holding government accountable.

    These are taxpayer dollars being spent on FAKE OVERSIGHT! Someone needs to protect the taxpayers and condemn the county for appointing these PLASTIC AND TOOTHLESS lapdogs are only there for show.

    Hutchens and OCSD ran a crime syndicate which trampled on constitutional rights in the OC jails right under the nose of a BoS appointed lapdog who was paid $210,000 a year.

    What makes you believe the next lapdog would have teeth? Are you going to take Spitzer’s word for it? lol

  • verifiedsane

    Has the Day Finally Come for OC to Get a Law Enforcement Watchdog? NO!!!!

    Getting another tax payer funded lap dog with no real investigative powers or independence is just more of the same & repeating the failures of the past. I can’t believe the media is still using Watch Dog and Orange County Government in the same article. They constitute the very definition of a Juxtaposition.

    The very prospect of any actual OC government oversight is pure and unadulterated fantasy…..until there are criminal indictments and a dramatic changing of the corrupt ruling oligarchy; the corruption will just remain as the status quo, (or if it’s possible) get worse…its a different day…but the same old story..

  • LFOldTimer

    “But in March 2016, Stephen Connolly — the OIR director – resigned under pressure from supervisors who were unhappy with his work”

    Are you kidding me. Mr. Gerda?

    Right after Connolly started his OIR job he was openly reprimanded by the BoS from the dais for not properly performing his basic duties (monthly reports, independent watchdog analyses, etc…). He was reprimanded at least 3 times by the former BoS. Despite the repeated reprimands he was allowed to keep his job! ha. Then the new council started questioning his performance and claiming they learned more about the dark side of OCSD from the OC Weekly than from Connolly! ha.

    Then the current BoS extended his $210,000 contract for 6-9 months claiming that there were worried about a Federal consent decree if the office was vacant. So after the 9 month extension – Connolly moved on – the office was empty and the Feds moved in with their civil rights investigation.

    The whole thing was a farce from the start. The OIR was nothing more than window dressing to appease the taxpayers after the Carona prosecution. There was no real intention to oversee OCSD. Connolly was used as a front man. For God sakes, OCSD were using illegal informants and the only way we found out about it was through Scott Sanders at the Public Defender’s office and Judge Goethals at OC superior court! The OIR was totally WORTHLESS for EIGHT YEARS!!!!

    What makes you or anyone else believe the fairy tale that Connolly’s replacement will be any different than Connolly? Come on, no one can possibly be that naive. The Supervisors won’t even call out Hutchens for the scandal she’s has created. Do you really think the BoS will appoint a hard-nosed watchdog who’ll hold Hutchen’s feet to the fire? Give me a %#$% break!!!

    Would everyone PLEASE GROW UP????