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Murder charges against an Alameda deputy who failed a psych exam prompted a state review—now, SF sheriffs have been cleared

The exterior of the San Francisco County Jail at 850 Bryant St. on Aug. 2, 2022 | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A state review of more than 200 San Francisco sheriff’s deputies whose psychological exam results were called into question found that none of them had failed. 

The review, which was launched in early October, followed allegations that 24-year-old Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Devin Williams Jr.—who reportedly received a failing grade on his psychological exam—had murdered a couple in their East Bay home.

After the allegations surfaced, dozens of deputies in Alameda were pulled from duty pending a review of their psychological exam results. County officials initially said that Williams had an unblemished background, but they acknowledged that the review of its ranks came about because of the allegations. 

The state began an audit of all police officers and sheriff’s deputies hired since 2016 in three Bay Area counties—San Francisco, Contra Costa and Alameda. The agency reviewed 224 San Francisco deputies’ pre-employment qualifications, which included their psychological exams. Approximately 535 San Francisco police officers’ psychological examination results are still under review by Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), the state agency that licenses all police and deputies. 

“We have completed the review of SF Sheriff over the last five years and have found no anomalies,” said POST’s Meagan Poulos. “We have not yet reviewed SFPD. We hope to complete everything by the end of November.” 

A San Francisco Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said in a statement that the results no surprise.

“The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office has always been confident in our pre-employment psychological evaluation screening process. If an applicant does not pass the psych exam, their information is never forwarded for our consideration. The POST audit proved what we knew all along,” Tara Moriarty said.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department said that the agency accidentally hired a number of deputies based on what it had thought was a passing psychological examination result, but later was informed that those results were not, in fact, passing grades by state standards. The Alameda deputies who failed were allowed to retake their exams, and many who passed have since been reinstated.  

California law enforcement officers are required to take psychological exams in order to assess the “presence of a mental or emotional condition” and “psychological stability,” as well as personality traits, according to the state’s manual on the exams.

“The peace officer psychological evaluation is, in effect, an assessment of the influence of personality traits—both normal and abnormal—on job-related behaviors,” the manual says. 

Those traits are used to assess a potential police officer’s stress tolerance, impulse control, potential for discriminatory bias and ability to work with others.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at

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