Bristling at criticism of how Orange County deputies were handling non-physical body counts of inmates before three men escaped last week, the head of the deputies' union Friday put the blame on management.
Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, wrote a letter to Sheriff Sandra Hutchens laying out what he contends was management's directive to "completely ignore department policy on conducting inmate counts nearly a year ago."
Lt. Jeff Hallock, the department's spokesman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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The deputies conducts five body counts a day. One is a physical check in the morning, and there is another one in the evening. Between those checks, the deputies do a non-physical check by comparing the number of bodies in a jail module with a card that is essentially an inmate's in-custody ID. The ID stays with guards when the inmate leaves the facilities to go to court or for some other reason.
In the wake of the trio's daring Jan. 22 escape, Hutchens said she was "troubled by the amount of time it took for us to discover that three inmates from our maximum security jail were unaccounted for. ... We have taken immediate steps to rectify that by changing our count procedures and tightening up in other areas, and we continue to look system-wide at our policies and procedures and that will be ongoing for some time."
Sheriff's investigators are still looking for two of the escaped inmates, Hossein Nayeri, 37, and Jonathan Tieu, 20. Bac Duong, 43, turned himself in to authorities today. Dominguez claimed that when deputies complained about a change in the way counts were being done and department policy, they received "push-back from jail management with the justification that 'This is the way we have always done it.'"
Dominguez added in his letter to the sheriff, "The safety and security of the men and women who work in your jails, the inmates and the public depend on policies and procedures being followed."
The union head argued that a sheriff's captain's directive last year "essentially nullified every department policy on inmate counts and allowed for the jail facility to function for at least a year -- including during this recent jail escape -- without a written policy on inmate counts."
Dominguez demanded the sheriff remove Capt. Chris Wilson from his command of the Central Men's Jail.
"We are also requesting a comprehensive review of jail management by an independent outside entity in order to expose other potential management directives which may be endangering the safety of the staff, the inmates and the public," Dominguez wrote.