3 Alameda County sheriff's deputies return to job after getting 'suitable' on psych exam

Three of the 47 Alameda County sheriff's deputies who were relieved of their law enforcement duties after getting unsatisfactory marks on their psychological exams have returned to duty because of a previous oversight of their files.

On Thursday, Lt. Ray Kelly said that these three deputies had gotten an unsuitable mark on their first psych exam, but had taken a re-test and passed the second time around. That second test deeming them "suitable" had been in their files all along and was initially overlooked, Kelly said.  

The law allows a law enforcement candidate to take a second psych exam to become a peace officer if the second test shows them to be "suitable," under the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, the state agency vested with the oversight of training and hiring police in California. It's not exactly clear, though, how someone can fail the first time and pass the second. 

So, the actual number of deputies who were relieved of their duties is 44 – not 47, Kelly said.

He added that he expects more deputies to get re-tested by a POST-psychologist in the "coming days." 

On Monday, KTVU first reported that 47 deputies received a letter telling them they had been relieved of their law enforcement duties because they received unsatisfactory results on their psychological examinations dating back to 2016. 

That means the deputies – roughly 5% of the 1,000-member sworn force – who received "D. Not Suited" on the exam were already stripped of their arresting powers and firearms, but they will retain their pay and benefit and moved into a non-law enforcement position. 

MORE: 47 Alameda County Sheriff deputies get unsatisfactory on psych evaluations; relieved of duties

As a result of this revelation, POST sent consultants to the sheriff's office to determine how deputies were hired despite receiving unsuitable marks on their psych exams.

State law does not allow such candidates to be hired as law enforcement. 

However, Kelly said that in years past, POST officials told the sheriff's office that a D was acceptable. 

POST spokeswoman Meagan Poulos contested that assertion regarding the D. She said she never heard of a grading system and assumed that might be an internal system. 

POST is a government agency that sets the minimum hiring and training standards to become a police officer in the state of California. 

The audit was prompted by the actions of former deputy Devin Williams Jr, 24, who was charged with killing a husband and wife -- with whom he was having an affair – in their Dublin home on Sept. 7. 

Multiple sources have told KTVU that Williams had failed his psych exam and that county counsel likely forced the review of how many other deputies might not have passed.

Candidates are given a multiple choice psychological exams, administered by POST psychologists, to determine the mental fitness of a candidate to "protect public safety" and ensure that law enforcement hires are "free from any mental condition, including bias against race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation that might adversely affect" their exercise of power. The test also tries to ensure that the candidate is "capable of withstanding the psychological demands of the position." 

The test assesses behaviors such as integrity, maturity and control, dependability, attention to detail, leadership, flexibility, teamwork and initiative, to name a few attributes. The test also seeks to uncover "counterproductive work behaviors," such as substance abuse, anxiety, depression and anger issues. 

As for what's next, Ahern wrote the deputies that his office intends to schedule a second exam in the hopes that the employees can be reclassified as "suitable" and "return to full duty status." 

What's unchartered territory is that the majority of deputies will be re-tested after they've already been hired. 

Poulos said that she wasn't sure what would happen next because to her knowledge, this has never happened before.

"I just don't know," she said.

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez