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How Many SF Sheriff’s Deputies Failed Their Psychological Exams? State Expands Review After Dozens of Alameda County Deputies Relieved of Duty

Written by Jonah Owen LambPublished Oct. 05, 2022 • 6:45pm
The exterior of the San Francisco County Jail at 850 Bryant Street on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

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State officials plan to review the psychological examination results of more than a quarter of San Francisco Sheriff’s Office deputies after nearly 50 Alameda County deputies who failed their psychological exams were relieved of duty.

The action follows the alleged murder of a couple in their Dublin home by Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24. While Alameda County officials claimed that Williams had an unblemished background, they acknowledged that the review of its ranks came about because of the allegations, and KTVU reported that Williams received a failing grade on his psychological exam.

Now, Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST)—the state agency that licenses all police and deputies—plans to review 224 San Francisco deputies’ pre-employment qualifications, including their psychological exams. The agency emailed the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office Friday, along with the Alameda and Contra Costa offices, to request the expanded review of deputies hired since 2016.

The review may further impact the ranks of a department with a history of its own serious misconduct that is still reeling from a diminished number of deputies as it faces an increasing jail population. 

“POST is coming next week, and we fully welcome the audit,” said SF Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tara Moriarty. “They perform inspections every other year to regularly assure compliance. But this audit will be more expansive, and is being executed in the wake of what happened at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.” 

POST spokesperson Meagan Poulos said that the process was not “typical” and that the expanded review was being undertaken as a precaution. “We take it very seriously, which is why not only are we looking into what is happening in Alameda, we want to expand to make sure that this is the only issue,” Poulos said.

The state agency’s usual biannual compliance review, which is set to begin soon, only includes deputies hired since its last visit, which in this case would number just 24, acting sheriff spokesperson Christian Kropff said Wednesday, affirming that the additional requests this time around are not part of its usual process.

The correspondence POST sent to the sheriff’s office included personal information and cannot be released publicly, Kropff wrote in an email. 

Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern relieved 47 deputies of their firearms and law enforcement duties after the audit found that their psych exams showed they had each received a “D. Not Suited,” the sheriff said in a letter. The letter went on to say that the agency had erroneously been informed by POST that such scores allow hiring.

Upon further consultation with POST and the Alameda County Counsel’s Office, the Sheriff’s Office discovered that such results do not allow one to serve as a law enforcement officer. However, a dozen of those deputies have since re-tested and been returned to duty as of Oct. 5, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Alameda County sheriff’s deputy, Devin Williams Jr., arrested in September 2022 on suspicion of fatally shooting a Dublin couple in their home. | Courtesy Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesperson Lt. Ray Kelly told KTVU it was “horrible” to have had to tell dozens of deputies that they were relieved of their duties and that he hoped they could re-test and start to work again. 

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SF Sheriff’s Moriarty said that the agency only allows deputies into its ranks who pass their psychological exams, but she did not explain the details of that process, or what kind of score the office requires when it hires deputies. She did note that the test is administered by a third party and that if someone fails the test initially, they can retake it but must pay for it themselves.

While Moriarty did not say what questions SF deputies are given or the nature of the test, the POST manual for such testing lays out how to give such exams and what they seek to uncover. 

All law enforcement officers in the state are required to take the POST-mandated psychological exam to assess the “presence of a mental or emotional condition” and “psychological stability,” as well as personality traits. 

“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 looked at in order to assess someone’s stress tolerance, impulse control, potential for discriminatory bias and ability to work in a team.

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Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]


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