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State Will Review Psych Exams of More Than 500 SFPD Officers Following Murder Charges Against Alameda Deputy

Written by Jonah Owen LambUpdated at Oct. 06, 2022 • 2:05pmPublished Oct. 06, 2022 • 1:30pm
Pedestrians pass San Francisco Police Department headquarters in Mission Bay on Saturday, July 2, 2022, in San Francisco. | Noah Berger for The Standard

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State officials are set to review the psychological exam results of all San Francisco Police Department officers hired since 2016 as part of a regional review sparked by an ongoing scandal in Alameda County centering on dozens of deputies who failed their exams, according to the state agency that oversees police.

The state plans to audit all police officers and sheriff’s deputies hired since 2016 in three Bay Area counties—San Francisco, Contra Costa and Alameda. Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) spokesperson Meagan Poulos said Thursday that the agency sent letters last week to not only county sheriff’s offices, as The Standard previously reported, but also to all law enforcement agencies in the three counties. 

The regional review was launched after 47 deputies in Alameda County were relieved of duty in late September because they had failed their psychological examinations, information that came to light after Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24, allegedly murdered a couple in their Dublin home. Williams had reportedly failed his psych exam, and Alameda County officials acknowledged that the review of the Sheriff’s Office’s ranks came about because of the allegations. Since then, at least 12 deputies have been returned to duty in Alameda. 

While the expanded review includes approximately 535 SFPD officers, Chief Bill Scott asserted at Wednesday night’s Police Commission meeting that no such issues exist within the department. “Honestly, we don’t believe we have those issues; we have a very thorough process for that,” Scott said. 

The chief confirmed that he had received the request from POST, but said it was part of the state agency’s usual review of his department. On Thursday, SFPD did not elaborate further on whether the POST’s audit was indeed routine. 

San Francisco Police Chief William “Bill” Scott speaks to members of the press during a press conference at SFPD headquarters at 1251 3rd Street, San Francisco, Calif., on Monday October 3, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

As reported Wednesday by The Standard, POST plans to review 224 San Francisco sheriff’s deputies’ pre-employment qualifications, including their psychological exams. All of those deputies were hired in or after 2016.

POST is reviewing all law enforcement officers hired since 2016 because in that year, a state regulation around test results was changed. POST says Alameda County Sheriff’s Office incorrectly interpreted that change, which was why it hired so many deputies who were marked as “not suited” for employment on their exams, Poulos said.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office did not return a request for comment on its interpretation of that regulation, but a letter written by Sheriff Gregory Ahern said that POST informed the office a number of years ago that it could hire candidates who receive a “D. Not Suited” evaluation on their psychological evaluations. The letter noted that that understanding was wrong. 

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The specific POST regulation says that the administrator of the psych exams must sign a statement saying that the candidate was evaluated in accordance with state regulations and passed the exam. 

“The statement shall include a determination of the candidate’s psychological suitability for exercising the powers of a peace officer,” the regulation reads. “Prior to appointment as a peace officer, the candidate must be determined to be psychologically suitable.”  

Michael Barba contributed to this report.

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Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]


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