Orange County, CA Sheriff Officials Emails Show Combative View Toward Gun Activists


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A series of emails detail sheriffs' officials disparaging activists and county supervisors protesting new gun policies.

Transcripts of text messages sent by Orange County sheriff's officials during a November 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting shows the law enforcement leaders used their cell phones to ridicule activists and even supervisors during a public hearing on gun permit policies.

The messages, obtained under a public records request by a group named Ordinary California Citizens Concerned with Safety, reveal a combative tone by sheriff's command staff toward the activists. Some county supervisors questioned whether that defensiveness triggered the large security presence that met activists when they returned to a January meeting seeking to again criticize Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' gun policies.

"We are locked in mortal battle…It is ugly. We will survive however," wrote Assistant Sheriff Mike Hillmann as he sat in the audience at 1:17 pm during the November 18 board meeting.

Hillmann, a former LAPD deputy chief recruited by Hutchens to help reform Orange County's troubled department, made fun of County Supervisor Janet Nguyen – a vocal critic of Hutchen's CCW policies. Hillmann texted: "I hope Janet has a pet she can call a friend."

Nguyen said she was shocked by the tone of the texts and was having her staff review more than 300 pages of the messages.

"It clearly shows the attitude that's over at that department. It shows no respect," Nguyen said. "It shows clearly they have no respect for us as a governing body, much less the residents."

Sheriff Hutchens apologized for what she called the unprofessional conduct of staff members, but stressed the opinions revealed by the text messages had nothing to do with the increased security at the next CCW hearing. Hutchens added that she appreciated the input from those who disagree with her concealed weapons policies.

"Clearly, I do not condone comments that were made on the emails and I have admonished those that participated in that as being unprofessional conduct and I do not expect that to occur again," Hutchens said. She said the department policy is that agency-issued Blackberries are to be used for business only.

By the next meeting on gun permit issues on January 13, gun activists were confronted by a very different boardroom.

Large placards in the front lobby read, "No Firearms allowed." Responding to a series of unspecified threats, numerous plainclothes investigators and uniformed SWAT deputies were out in full force. Activists wearing green buttons that read CCW said they felt intimidated as they approached the dais to offer comments. Three people wearing green buttons were questioned but no one was detained and no firearms were confiscated.

Supervisor Chris Norby said the texts gave credence to accusations that sheriff's officials increased security at that meeting to stifle opposition.

"I think they were surprised, taken aback (by the Nov. 18 meeting) and when they thought it was going to be repeated, they treated that as a security issue," Norby said.

He also said the text messages raises questions about the command staff.

"It sounds like there is a serious control issue there," Norby said. "These are her top deputies that advise her and (they are texting) at county expense and on county equipment and they are belittling the public."

During the Nov. 18 meeting, hundreds of concealed weapons activists showed up to let supervisors know they opposed the new policies adopted by Hutchens. After taking office, Hutchens announced she would tighten the permit policies relaxed during the tenure of former Sheriff Mike Carona.

That has triggered a fierce backlash by activists, the National Rifle Association and even the board of supervisors.

During the November hearing, one by one, a row of activists took to the microphone at the board of supervisors and told Hutchens that her policies were unfair and a bad fit for a county known as Republican and pro-second Amendment. The meeting lasted hours and by the end, most county supervisors had joined in criticizing Hutchens' approach to the gun permits.

The emails released to the activist group highlight how uncomfortable Sheriff's officials were at the hearing.

Shortly after 2 pm, at the November meeting, R.J. Morris, a CCW activist who had applied for a gun permit, got up to offer his critique.

Sheriff's officials immediately cyber-insulted Morris, who wears a bow tie and tinted glasses, through a series of text messages.

"Is that Elton John?" wrote department spokesman Damon Micalizzi.

One secretary sent Hillmann a message, "That guy that is up speaking now is CREEPY!! Nice hair and nice bow tie."

Hillmann replied, "That is the new investigator and gang officer attire."

Morris, 56, who is a airline transport pilot, said he was "shocked" at the lack of professionalism in the email communications. The North Tustin resident was also deeply hurt given the fact that he has expressed interest in helping the department upgrade its air squadron.

"It makes me feel embarrassed that I've supported the sheriff," said Morris. "It makes me look like a fool."

Morris, who was among the most neutral of department critics on the gun policy issue, insists that "just because we're at odds with the administration, it in no means degrades our appreciation to the men and women who serve."

Nevertheless, assistant sheriff Hillmann, toward the end of a long hearing, texted an agent with the FBI: "This has been unbelievable. Am ready to stick a pencil in my eye."

Although the text messages showed a defensiveness among high-level sheriff's officials, Hutchens said she does not see the department as being engaged in combat with the CCW advocates.

"I don't see them as enemies. I see it as a healthy debate," Hutchens said. "If anybody needs to be listening it's me."

Contact the writer: 714-285-2862 or [email protected]


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do a deeper background check on the cops and see what ya come up with ...... a lot of them have issues too, and not good ones either
I just received the following, in response to my email of support to one of the Supervisors

Dear Concerned Citizen:
This Tuesday, February 10 at 9:30 a.m., the Board of Supervisors will again hold a public hearing on CCW policy.
All of you concerned about this issue should attend and speak.
All those concerned about the presence of over 30 deputies at the January __ meeting should speak. All those concerned about the illegal snooping by hidden security cameras on Supervisor Nguyen and myself should speak. All those concerned about the disdain shown by the Sheriff's staff toward the public and elected officials by the recent release of text messages should speak.
At that time, the sheriff will reveal her latest tactics on pulling legally-issued CCW permits to law abiding citizens. This will be the third hearing on this issue.
The time and money wasted on this misguided jihad against law-abiding citizens is appalling. I'm sorry that these hearings do not seem to lead to any resolution. Perhaps the sheriff wants to draw them out until all of you grow exhausted and give up your efforts. But you must remain active. Your voices must be heard.
I look forward to hearing your voices at our February 10 hearing, in the Board room at 333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana. Please contact my staffers—Doug Cox and Bruce Whitaker—for any further information, at 714-834-3440.
Chris Norby[/COLOR]
I don't know if it will accomplish anything, but it can not hurt. I posted a message of protest against the Sheriff's tactics, and in support of those Supervisors taking a stand against the Sheriff, at the governor's site, link below
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