OAKLAND, Calif. – The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has stripped 47 deputies, 10 percent of the force, of their weapons and arrest powers because they suspended psychological exams in the wake of an alleged fatal double shooting by a former deputy..
It was “horrible” to have to relieve the deputies of their duties, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Ray Kelly told KTVU-TV.
The station last Friday obtained a copy of a letter in which deputies were informed of their change in status. MPs will still receive their pay and benefits.
The move came after the Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal audit of deputy psychological exams from January 2016 to the present.
Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s letter notified a deputy: whose name was blacked out on the copy – that the deputy had been described as “D. Unfit” in a psychological evaluation and under state law could not serve as a peace officer.
The letter said the Sheriff’s Office had previously been operating under incorrect advice received several years ago from the California Commission on Peace Officer Training and Standards, which said it could hire candidates who received that qualification.
Ahern said the deputy can be hired if a second exam finds him “fit” and the office intends to schedule an appointment for that exam.
“It is our intention to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” Ahern wrote. “We also intend to return you to full service status once you obtain a ‘proper’ finding.
Kelly said he expected the new tests to occur within the next two months. The tests will be conducted by a psychologist who does not work for the sheriff, he said.
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The audit followed the arrest earlier this month of former deputy Devin Williams Jr., 24, who previously worked for the Stockton Police Department. He is accused of shooting and killing a couple in their Dublin, California home on September 7.
His mother, Anitra Williams, told KTVU-TV that her son had been romantically involved with Maria Tran, one of the victims, and he believed she was not married.
The station said four sources said Williams had failed a psychological exam, although Kelly previously said Williams, who was hired in September 2021, had passed all psychological tests.
Williams, 24, who formerly worked for the Stockton Police Department, turned himself in to law enforcement hours after being charged in the deadly slayings.
Williams’ mother spoke to The Record in 2020 about her fears for her son while working as a new police officer in Stockton. She said at the time that this never deterred Devin from going into law enforcement, but she couldn’t help but be worried.
“I’m happy that he’s living his lifelong dream,” she said, “but I’m concerned because as an off-duty military man, he has to carry his service weapon.”
“I worry about what happens if he gets pulled over and he mentions the gun and at that point he takes his last breath,” Williams said. “It’s the reality of having a black child.”
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an Oakland nonprofit that works on issues of race and criminal justice, accused the Sheriff’s Office of turning a blind eye to the problem of inadequate deputies .
“This further highlights the egregious levels of dysfunction and corruption that have plagued the sheriff’s office for years,” center organizing director Jose Bernal said in a statement.
Kelly said the department has been under “tremendous pressure” to hire more deputies and that it was difficult to find people for the tough job.
“I know people are going to assume all these deputies are killers,” Kelly said. “But that’s not true. This test tries to find out if you are psychologically fit for the job, to handle all the horrible things we see. At 22, sometimes you’re not. I know this is not good. But it’s not as bad as it seems.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.