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O.C. Sheriff's Department cuts 24 positions, including assistant sheriff [Updated]

February 5, 2010 | 12:35 pm

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has announced another round of layoffs in an attempt to grapple with massive budget shortfalls.

The cuts include a member of the sheriff’s command staff, Assistant Sheriff Michael Hillmann, and 23 personnel staff, said Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. In addition, 15 members of the sheriff’s staff have been asked to take on extra responsibilities without pay increases to make up for the loss of personnel.

“Every laid-off individual does represent a loss of service,” Hutchens said, “but I’m doing everything I can not to impact the emergency services we provide.”

Last year, Hutchens made $28 million in cuts, including a 41% reduction in command staff and 24 layoffs, only to later find out the department would need to cut an additional $24 million in the first six months of this year.

The cuts are due to continuing declines in Proposition 172 revenues – the ½-cent sales tax that helps fund public safety in the state, Hutchens said.

[Updated at 1:33 p.m.: Hillmann, a 42-year LAPD veteran, came to the department to assist Hutchens after she was appointed in 2008 to help the department rebuild from scandal and fill out the term of Michael S. Carona, who stepped down after being indicted on federal corruption charges.

Hillmann ran into controversy early on when he was caught sending text messages mocking activists and board members during a Board of Supervisors meeting on the department's gun permit policies. He later apologized.

Hillmann, 64, said Friday's announcement was “bittersweet.”

“I’ve had a career,” he said. “I want to be able to save some cops.”

In addition to rebuilding the department, the new sheriff has faced a wave of increasingly drastic budget cuts, which have forced her to reorganize again and again. The picture for the future is bleak. In fiscal year 2010-11 the department expects a $60-million budget shortfall.]

-- Paloma Esquival