Nearly all the Alameda County sheriff's deputies deemed 'unsuitable' back on job after re-test
OAKLAND, Calif. - A total of 41 Alameda County sheriff's deputies, who were stripped of their law enforcement duties last month because they received unsuitable marks on their psychological exams, have been returned to their posts and given back their badges and guns, KTVU has learned.
As of Friday, Lt. Ray Kelly said that only three deputies have not returned to work as their exams are still pending; two of those deputies are on maternity leave.
No deputy sheriffs have been terminated, Kelly said.
Originally, Sheriff Greg Ahern relieved 47 deputies of their duties on Sept. 23, in a letter exclusively obtained by KTVU.
But three of those deputies had actually passed their second exam which had been overlooked, bringing the total number of deputies to 44 who received "not suitable" marks on their psych tests, Kelly said.
Kelly said the department played no role in arranging the re-tests for the deputies. Employees were given a list of accredited psychologists and were also represented by their labor union during the process.
In addition, POST inspectors visited the sheriff's office and "did an extensive field audit of approximately 580 files," Kelly said.
All the psychologists - for both the first and second tests - were certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, Kelly said.
How the second tests were administered so quickly was not fully explained, nor were the details of how so many of the deputies were deemed "unsuitable" on their first test, but passed on the second try.
Critics of the sheriff remained skeptical.
"The whole thing is a sham process and the sheriff cannot circumvent state law," said Jose Bernal, a senior organizer at the Ella Baker Center in Oakland. "There has been no transparency."
Yesenia Sanchez, the newly elected sheriff who takes over in January, however, told KTVU that none of the deputies did anything wrong and have been unfairly stigmatized.
She added that since being hired and working on the job, the majority of the deputies have likely gained maturity and experience, which enabled them to pass the second test.
According to POST, it is a violation of state law to hire someone as a peace officer who is deemed unsuitable on a psychological exam and the state agency vested with the oversight of police hiring and standards has not yet released a final report on what happened. Those who fail can take a test a second time, but according to state law, that test has to be taken before a candidate is hired.
What happened in Alameda County is uncharted territory.
POST spokeswoman Meagan Poulos was unavailable for immediate comment on Friday to verify the validity of the retests.
In an earlier interview, Poulos told KTVU that her agency sent Ahern a letter reminding him that the re-tests had to adhere to POST regulations.
These psychological tests are meant to determine the psychological 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.
The deputies who received a "not suitable" score also received a "D" assessment on their psych tests.
In a previous interview, Ahern insisted that he was told a D grade was acceptable, despite Poulos contradicting this claim.
The audit of the deputies back to 2016 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. The sheriff's office has not confirmed this.
At a news conference following the double homicide, Kelly told reporters that Williams' record before getting hired was "immaculate."
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez