DUBLIN, Calif. (KRON) — A staggering number of Alameda County deputies were demoted, ordered to turn in their service weapons, and stripped of their authority as law enforcers on Friday, according to a letter written by Sheriff Gregory Ahern.
A recent internal audit dug into deputies’ prior background checks and found that 47 deputies were designated as “Not Suited” for duty by their psychological examinations.
A deputy anonymously provided KRON4 with a copy of the letter on Monday. The 47 deputies will be restricted to desk duties until they are re-tested with psychological exams and pass.
The internal audit combed through every deputy’s background check and psychological evaluation from the past six years.
For years, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office hired candidates even after they were declared “Not Suited” in their psychological exams, according to the letter. The Sheriff’s Office realized its error after a glaring spotlight was cast on one of its deputies, Deputy Devin Williams Jr.
The Sheriff’s Office is still reeling from a double homicide in Dublin allegedly carried out by one of its own. Williams is charged with murdering his lover, Maria Tran, and her husband, Benison Tran, on September 7.
The night of the killings, Williams worked a shift at the county jail, drove to the Tran’s home, broke into the house, and shot the couple using his service weapon, according to investigators. Williams triggered a 12-hour manhunt before he turned himself in to police.
Investigators said they are retracing Williams’ life to unravel what went wrong and what drove him to kill two people. “There is no excuse for this. It’s not rational. He is a coward. He’s cold-hearted,” Lt. Ray Kelly said.
On the same day that Williams was arrested, Kelly said the Sheriff’s Office was going to take a close look at its hiring procedures and whether any red flags were missed. “When we hired him a year ago, there were no indications that he would be capable of committing a double murder,” Kelly said.
The internal audit reached far beyond Williams — every deputy’s hiring process was scrutinized.
“We looked into the files. We began to see that the rules had changed. The scores that we thought were passing (state standards) were just below passing, and as a result of that, the people that we employed would not qualify with their psychological exams to be peace officers,” Kelly said.
Many of the demoted deputies were “devastated” and “in shock” when they were notified, Kelly said.
Kelly explained that the psychological exam is not as straight forward as an IQ or SAT test.
“Young people, fresh out of college with very little life experience, very little work experience, tend to not do as well on the psychological exams as people with more life experience. It’s based on your emotional intelligence and a bunch of other factors,” Kelly told KRON4.
Ahern wrote in his letter to deputies, “As a result of this audit, it was learned that the result of your Psychological Examination was listed by the psychologist who performed your evaluation as ‘Not Suited.’ 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.”
Ahern’s letter continued, “The Sheriff’s Office intends to schedule you another Psychological Examination. You will retain your pay and benefits and will still work, but in the meantime, our legal counsel has informed our Office that you will not be authorized to carry a firearm and you cannot make arrests based upon probable cause, issue traffic citations, or perform any function reserved for peace officers.”
Ahern ended his letter writing, “Our intention is to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. We also intend to have you return to full duty status once you obtain a ‘Suitable’ finding.”
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) published a 280-page psychological screening manual on its website. The screening is administered “to ensure that peace officers are emotionally and psychologically equipped to perform their difficult and taxing duties and to resist temptations to exploit or misuse their police powers,” POST wrote.
According to POST, “problem officers” may exhibit some of the following characteristics:
- Aggressiveness, argumentativeness, and antagonism
- Emotional instability/anxiety
- Lack of empathy
- Proneness to alcohol abuse
- Suspiciousness, cynicism and distrustfulness
Williams, 24, of Stockton, remains locked in Santa Rita Jail with no bail.