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SF hired cops without psych exams, incomplete background checks, audit finds

San Francisco police officers investigate a scene of an incident. | Mike Kuba/The Standard.

San Francisco hired cops without documenting their citizenship or whether they graduated high school—requirements at the time of their hiring—state records newly obtained by The Standard show.

Additionally, several officers worked for more than a year before the department screened their psychological preparedness, another hiring requirement, for a job that gives them power over life and death.

California’s law enforcement licensing agency, Peace Officer Standards and Training, identified those among myriad other issues while looking at all Bay Area police hires since 2016. 

The regional audit last year came after an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy killed two people, prompting questions about the psychological fitness of police officers and sheriff’s deputies across the Bay Area. After finding irregularities in mental health screenings at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the licensing agency expanded the review to every law enforcement outfit in the Bay Area.   

The state said it found nothing to disqualify hundreds of Bay Area law enforcement officers, including the 530 San Francisco cops reviewed in the audit.

But the documents recently obtained by The Standard point to a host of deficiencies with background investigations that call into question San Francisco Police Department’s vetting process. 

The state records flagged files of 45 officers for missing a range of important information such as fingerprints, proof of citizenship or high school graduation records. One file included a high school diploma from an unaccredited school. 

In all, the state tally shows: 

  • Thirty-three officers who worked for a year before SFPD gave their fingerprints to the state
  • A dozen who were on the streets for a year before SFPD put them through psychological evaluations 
  • Fifteen San Francisco officers lacked proof of any psychological screening 
  • Eight officers did not have proof of citizenship
  • Eight had missing or incomplete high school or college transcripts
  • Two did not have FBI clearance
Police Chief Bill Scott, right | Camille Cohen/The Standard

In a Dec. 2 letter notifying SFPD that all officers were fit to don a uniform, the state gave the department a month to provide the missing materials. The department told The Standard it has no comment about missing background information. 

And more than two months since the state’s deadline to hand over the missing background check records, SFPD said it’s still crafting a response.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at