Newly elected Alameda County sheriff says office owes deputies deemed 'unsuitable' an apology

In her first statement since KTVU revealed that more than 40 deputies were hired despite receiving "not suitable" marks on their psychological exams, Alameda County's newly elected sheriff said she promises to reexamine the "flawed" background and hiring process and that they deserve an apology. 

Yesenia Sanchez declined multiple attempts over the weekend to respond to the situation.

But in an email sent from her campaign account on Friday, Sanchez wrote: "When I take office, I will be focused on what has recently been brought to light. It is clear the process is flawed."

She also demanded that the Alameda County Sheriff's Office owes them an apology. She ousted longtime Sheriff Gregory Ahern in the June election. 

"It is a shame the 47 deputies directly affected by this discovery have been cast in a negative light," Sanchez wrote. "These deputies believed they passed all the necessary steps to gain employment as peace officers. It is difficult for me to see them now suffer the consequences of this process. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office owes them an apology. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office owes the public an apology."

She said that when she takes helm in January, she will make sure that the sheriff's office follows all state regulations and laws governing its hiring processes. 

"It is my hope we can earn back the trust of our Agency members, our community and those who seek employment in this noble profession," she wrote. 

In response, Lt. Ray Kelly, a department spokesman, wholeheartedly agreed with Sanchez, blaming the problem on the sheriff's administration. He said that what happened to the deputies was "horrible." 

On Monday, KTVU first reported that 47 Alameda County Sheriff's deputies were told Sept. 23 that they were 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" will be stripped of their arresting powers and firearms, but they will retain their pay and benefits. 

That number has since dropped to 44, as three of those deputies had passed a re-test, which had been overlooked the first time around, Kelly said. 

Roughly 30 of those deputies work in Santa Rita Jail, where Sanchez has been a commander. The jail has seen 59 in-custody deaths since 2014. 

According to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, it is a violation of state law to hire a peace officer if they get an unsuitable mark on their psych exam. 

Ahern promised the deputies to aid them with getting a second test in the next couple of months. It's unclear how many will pass the second time around. 

Sanchez's statement did not discuss the re-testing issue. 

According to POST rules, candidates are given a multiple choice exam 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 sheriff's office acknowledged that the audit of the psych exams was a direct result of the double homicide that former Deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24, is accused of committing on Sept. 7 when he killed a husband and wife, with whom he was having an affair, in their Dublin home.

Four sources told KTVU that he had failed his psych exam. 

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