Sheriff honored by OC Human Relations for working with diverse communities

By Greg Hardesty

OC Human Relations last week honored Sheriff Sandra Hutchens for “dedicating her service to the ideals of transparency, civilian oversight and community-oriented policing,” the non-profit said in announcing the honor.

Hutchens, who is retiring in December after 10 years of service, received a Community Policing Award from OC Human Relations at its annual fund-raiser and awards ceremony on Thursday, May 3, at the City National Grove of Anaheim.

The event honored individuals and organizations for work done in 2017 that promotes “justice, diversity and the human spirit.”

The Orange County Board of Supervisors founded the OC Human Relations Commission in 1971 as a response to mounting racial tension and conflict.

OC Human Relations Board Member Susan Reese (left), Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel and O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Hutchens was singled out for helping to establish, in 2015, the O.C. Sheriff’s Interfaith Advisory Council, which brings together members of diverse faith communities to engage with the OCSD to impact policy, improve mutual understanding, and develop relationships.

Hutchens worked with leaders from the Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, other diverse faith leaders and the OC Human Relations Commission to convene the Interfaith Advisory Council. Irvine PD Chief Mike Hamel and his agency later joined in the partnership.

“Sheriff Hutchens is a straight-talking, honest and open leader,” the OC Human Relations said. “She is willing to go into any community, weather the harshest criticism, and respond with compassionate professionalism.”

In his introduction of the award, Supervisor Todd Spitzer noted that encouraging an ongoing dialogue about diversity is critical to fighting and preventing crime.

O.C. Supervisor Todd Spitzer introduces the first team to receive the Community Policing Awards during the 2018 O.C. Human Relations Awards dinner at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The awards program noted that relationships between minority youth and the police have been strained across the U.S. due to some high-profile incidents.

Spitzer referenced his time serving as a reserve officer for the LAPD and being deployed three days to south-central L.A. during the 1992 riots. Following the riots, OC Human Relations began to recognize outstanding models of community-oriented policing, Spitzer noted.

O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens receives the Community Policing Award 2018 from Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“We believe that the safety of our children, our families and our community is a shared responsibility,” Spitzer said.

OC Human Relations partners with the Orange County Police Chiefs Association to recognize exemplary community policing programs.

In a video shown to attendees at the ceremony, Hutches said: “I believe a police agency needs to be transparent, needs to work with the community on priorities — not just making people safe, but making them feel safe and comfortable and included.”

Hutchens said in the video that she believes the Interfaith Advisory Council is critical because it educates diverse members of the community.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, center, poses for photos with her Community Policing award as she stands next to Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel, left, and OC Human Relations Board Member Susan Reese.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“OC Human Relations has been a tremendous help…to help educate the community on what we do, to help mediate disputes,” Hutches said in the video message. “But more broadly, OC Human Relations serves as the conscience of the county about how we are treating each other — how we are treating those who may not have as strong a voice for themselves.”

In brief comments after receiving her award, Hutchens, who started her law enforcement career in 1978 as a deputy with the LASD and retired as a division chief in charge of homeland security at that agency before successfully running for sheriff of Orange County, said the award is for a collaborative effort.

“I share this award particularly with all the law enforcement (personnel) in Orange County who are very dedicated to serving this community and treating everybody with dignity and respect, and doing that in a very transparent manner,” Hutchens said.

Tustin Police Chief Charles Celano, left, with O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s important for us to educate each other, to understand each other better and to see us beyond the uniform, I think, starts that dialogue that we need to have.”

Hutchens was one of six honorees in three categories at the event, whose title sponsor was Banc of California.

A new social media campaign, #HateFree, launched by OC Human Relations Executive Director Allison Edwards, also was introduced at the ceremony.

Edwards recently replaced Rusty Kennedy, who dedicated more than 40 years to working in Orange County in the field of human relations and is the founder of the OC Human Relations Council.

The complete list of the 2018 honorees are:

Estera Borcsa (Yorba Linda) — Emerging leader and service provider for at-risk youth and women’s empowerment

Minerva Gomez (La Habra) — Emerging leader and community organizer for immigrant communities

Brian Peterson (Santa Ana) — Emerging leader and advocate for people experiencing homelessness through Faces of Santa Ana project

Tustin Police Department — In partnership with OC Human Relations, the TPD implemented community dialogue meetings at Currie Middle School to facilitate face-to-face dialogue to understand various perspectives of middle school students, particularly of minority youth, and to address the importance of mending relationships and becoming advocates for peace and police-community partnerships.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens — The first female sheriff in Orange County, Hutchens has dedicated her service to the ideals of transparency, civilian oversight and community-oriented policing.

Understanding the importance of developing trusting relations over time, Hutchens worked with diverse faith leaders such as leaders from the Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, African American and Latino communities, and the OC Human Relations Commission to convene the O.C. Sheriff’s Interfaith Advisory Council to mobilize diverse faith communities to engage with the O.C. Sheriff to impact policy, improve mutual understanding, and develop relationships.

Distinguished BRIDGES School – Recognizes exceptional contributions to promote, nurture, protect and cultivate a BRIDGES’ school campus that is safe, welcoming and equitable.

This year’s honoree is Newport Harbor High School — Newport Harbor High School sets an example of how we can come together through leadership, listening, and understanding to address conflicts.

Educators, administrators and student leaders participated in listening sessions highlighting concerns and repairing relationships in addressing how to remain respectful in spite of differences.

Inclusion Circles, “Speed Friendships” and campaigns to strengthen and promote social bonds between students were introduced for unity, equality and understanding.

The school’s administration and teachers continue to make safety and inclusion the school’s priority.