OC Sheriff Probes Chopper Joyride Allegation | NBC Southern California

OC Sheriff Probes Chopper Joyride Allegation

Sheriff's department supervisor may have taken girlfiend on unauthorized chopper ride

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    The Orange County Sheriff's Department has two choppers ready for urgent use. One of them was allegedly used for a joyride, at a cost of $1,000 an hour (Published Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011)

    Someone who didn't want to be identified sent an anonymous letter directly to the Orange County Sheriff's Department with a serious allegation. The author claimed to be shocked that a department supervisor would allow their girlfriend to fly in a sheriff's department chopper without authorization.

    The sheriff's department has two choppers, called Duke One and Duke Two. It's not unprecedented to use them for ride-alongs, sometimes with media or public officials. But a girlfriend ride would not be within policy.

    "What we have right now is an allegation that there was an unauthorized ride-along," said O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. "We take it very seriously."

    In 2004, then Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo was fired over reports that he had used the department's chopper to retrieve his wife's purse.

    It's not cheap to fly a chopper. Estimates put the cost of flying the O.C. birds at $1,000 an hour.

    The anonymous whistleblower didn't stop with his complaint to the sheriff's department. The same anonymous letter was also sent to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, who predict it will be easy to verify what happened because the Federal Aviation Administration requires a record of every flight.

    "I do not want in any circumstance ever, any government personnel abusing their status," said Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson.

    "As it relates to the specific allegations of using an aircraft for, quote, a joyride, absolutely out of line, said  Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell. "I hope it isn't true."

    Sheriff Hutchens is withholding judgment on appropriate punishment.

    "It depends on what we find out in the investigation," said Hutchens. "Again, we want to make sure we do a thorough investigation and we'll take the appropriate action after that." 

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