Nearly 50 CA sheriff’s deputies stripped of arresting powers, firearms over poor psych evaluations

Nearly 50 California sheriff’s deputies have been stripped of their arresting powers and firearms because of the unsatisfactory ratings they received on psychological evaluations they underwent six years ago.

The deputies learned of the decision last Friday courtesy a letter from Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern.

In the letter, Ahern explained that a recent audit uncovered 47 deputies who received a “D. Not Suited” score during their initial psych exam in 2016.

He added that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office had been under the assumption that this rating did not bar them from hiring officers.

“Unfortunately, this is not the case. A great deal of research, and current advice from both POST and County Counsel has confirmed that any candidate who is evaluated as ‘D. Not Suited’ cannot serve as a peace officer in the State of California,” he wrote.

POST is short for the Peace Officer Standards and Training commission.

(Source: KTVU)

Ahern added that there’s one positive catch — officers have the right to a second psychological evaluation, and if they pass this evaluation, they’re in the clear.

“However, 11 CCR 1955(g)(1) provides a candidate who receives a ‘Not Suited”‘Psychological Evaluation has the right to obtain a second opinion and, in the event the second option is ‘Suitable,’ then the hiring authority, the Sheriff, can choose to hire the candidate based upon the ‘Suitable’ finding,” the sheriff wrote.

The bad news, of course, is that if they fail the second test, they’re out of a job. For the time being, they’re reportedly still getting paid.

Speaking with local station KTVU, the sheriff’s spokesperson, Lt. Ray Kelly, said they hope to perform the evaluations in the next “couple months” but are unsure as to how many of the 47 deputies will pass them.

But why did the department choose to audit psych evals in the first place? Because of former Deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24, who earlier this month killed a couple with whose wife he’d been having an affair.

(Source: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office)

“On Sept. 7, 2022, almost an hour past midnight, Dublin Police Services responded to a call about a double shooting inside of a residence on Colebrook Lane. Responding officers found a wife and husband, later identified as 42-year-old Maria Tran and 57-year-old Benison Tran, dead inside the large stucco house they once called home,” Law & Crime reported at the time.

“Witnesses to the double murder then identified Williams as the suspect in photographic lineup. The defendant’s father was later interviewed and said his son was in [a] ‘dating relationship’ with Maria Tran.”

This is relevant because it turns out Williams is one of the officers who’d failed his psychological examination.

Asked point-blank whether the recent audit was prompted by Williams’ actions, Kelly reportedly said, “I’d have to say yes.”

Critics say Sheriff Ahern is the problem.

“[F]our sources who spoke … on condition of anonymity said that they feel the psychological exam process under Ahern has been flawed. They alleged he often passes his friends and family on these tests to get them hired and nixes the candidates he doesn’t like,” according to KTVU.

“[A] source who used to do recruitment for the Sheriff’s Office said that the rules used to be much stricter before Ahern. The source, a retired employee, said that candidates who used to get unsatisfactory results were told they simply wouldn’t be hired. He said the range of issues to get an unsatisfactory could be mental health problems, financial issues, too many marriages and divorces or drug and alcohol issues, to name a few.”

“The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an Oakland nonprofit that deals with race and criminal justice issues, accused the Sheriff’s Office of previously turning a ‘blind eye’ to the problem of unsuited deputies,” The Record, a local paper, further notes.

Kelly pushed back on these allegations by saying the department has been under heavy pressure to hire more people, and further noting that finding the best-qualified candidates for such a job can be tough.

“I know that people are going to assume that all these deputies are killers. But that’s not true. This test tries to find out if you are psychologically suitable for the job, to handle all the horrible things we see. At the age of 22, sometimes you’re not. I know this isn’t good. But it’s not as bad as it sounds,” he said to KTVU.

The public appears to strongly disagree.

Look:

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