Bay Area Sheriff’s Office Audit Finds 45 Officers Failed Psychological Evaluation



CNN

In Alameda County, just across the bay from San Francisco, 45 sheriff’s deputies have had their guns taken away.

They are now confined to office duties. They can’t arrest anyone. They can’t even issue traffic citations.

The department’s admission comes after an internal audit found those 45 deputies failed the psychological assessment that was part of the hiring process. They were all rated “D. Not suitable. Not cut out to be a police officer.

The assessment they failed is mandated by California state law for anyone wishing to become a peace officer.

“If you’re looking at criminal cases or arrests based on an officer’s credibility … then that’s a problem,” says Adante Pointer, an Oakland attorney who specializes in police brutality cases. “This could lead to the convictions being overturned, the charges being dismissed.”

The audit, according to the sheriff’s department, was sparked by a double homicide in early September. The suspect? The sheriff’s deputy.

“Both people, a husband and wife, were shot and pronounced dead at the scene,” according to a statement from the Alameda County District Attorney, who also said, “Devin Williams Jr, a deputy of the Alameda County Sheriff, was charged with two counts of murder. Detectives believe Williams “had been romantically involved with the victim,” according to the arrest report.His attorney did not return calls made by CNN asking for comment.

“Devin Williams was the catalyst,” Lt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office told CNN. “You have to look at not just the crime, but the fact that he was a law enforcement officer. And ask us, are we missing something here? Red flags?”

Kelly would not comment on whether Williams failed the psychological evaluation.

Williams is currently being held in Santa Rita Jail, where 30 of the 45 deputies who failed psychological assessment work. Earlier this year, a judge ordered external oversight of the prison, settling a lawsuit brought by inmates who claimed there was a shortage of mental health care as well as abusive conditions. A Justice Department investigation into prison conditions, released last year, found the county and sheriff’s department likely violated federal law and the constitution by failing to provide inmates with adequate mental health care. .

“From 2015 to 2019, at least 14 prisoners died by suicide in the prison,” the April 2021 report reads in part. “Another two prisoners died by suicide in the prison in the past two months.”

“The question is, is there a correlation?” said Pointer, the lawyer. Deputies who failed the psychological assessment, he said, “worked there for several years, in that prison.”

The 45 precincts are among nearly 1,000 Alameda County deputies who have passed the psychological assessment since 2016 and been hired, or less than 5%, Kelly said.

The assessment mandated by California state law includes a written section, a background check and an interview which, according to the law, is used “to determine whether the applicant is free from any emotional or mental condition, including prejudice against race or ethnic origin, gender, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation that could interfere with the exercise of the powers of the peace officer.

Before getting the job, California law states that candidates for the job “must be found to be psychologically appropriate.” So, by law, you cannot get an “Not Suitable” rating and then be hired. But the sheriff’s department says they have been told otherwise, repeatedly, by the California Commission on Standards and Training for Peace Officers, known by the acronym POST.

In a letter sent to those 45 deputies late last week, Sheriff Gregory Ahern wrote, “The Sheriff’s Office has operated based on information provided several years ago by POST that we can hire candidates who receive a “D. Unsuitable assessment”. Unfortunately, it is not the case.”

Kelly says he has correspondence that proves POST gave the department what he called “wrong information.” He told CNN he couldn’t release it at this time.

“We’re still investigating, and I can’t comment on any of this,” POST spokesperson Meagan Poulos told CNN. She said she was unaware of similar issues in other state sheriff departments. “It’s actually the first time it’s been a problem for us. We’re in a lot of uncharted waters.

Asked if any of the MPs who failed the assessment could be considered a danger to society, Kelly replied: ‘I don’t think so. But then you have the Devin Williams storyline.

Kelly says the department reviewed the service records of all 45 deputies. “No red flags. No bias flags,” he said.

The group, he said, includes a lot of MPs of color, and some white men.

He said none of the 45 had a diagnosed mental health issue.

But Pointer, the Oakland attorney who specializes in police brutality cases, is skeptical.

“Forgive me if I’m unable to take their claims at face value,” Pointer said. “They can’t just say, ‘Move on.'”

MPs can now take another psychological assessment and, if successful, return to full duty immediately, Kelly says. In the meantime, they are on full pay. “That’s about 25 shifts a week that we have to do at the prison,” Kelly said. “We can absorb that in the short term.”

When Lt. Kelly was hired more than 25 years ago, he says there were thousands of applicants for very few jobs. He says the bar for getting in was so high, “It was about doing this, or becoming a saint.”

But, he says, times have changed. There are now very few applicants and many vacancies. Kelly cites the stress of work, now done under the control of social media, as one of the reasons recruiting and retaining assistants has become such a challenge. “The caliber of people we would hire has gone down,” he said. “Now we’re willing to ignore and give up some things that normally would never get you to the front door of this place.”

Kelly told CNN that many of the 45 deputies who failed the psychological evaluation were straight out of college. And their youth, he says, rather than serious character flaws, might be the reason they failed. “Imagine that you never had a job. You have no children. Imagine trying to deal with a domestic violence situation. You have no experience of that,” he said. “That’s why they may have had problems with the psychiatric examination.”

Not everyone is ready to accept this explanation.

“If you don’t have the maturity or the life experience to make life or death decisions,” says Pointer. “So you shouldn’t be trusted with a badge. Or a gun.


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