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Nearly 50 California sheriff deputies barred from active duty for failing psych evaluations

Nearly 50 sheriff deputies in California were barred from active duty Friday because they had failed their psychological evaluations dating back to 2016 — and should have never been hired, according to a report.

In total, 47 Alameda County Sheriff deputies — about 5% of the 1,000-member force — were relieved from active duty and stripped of their weapons, local Fox affiliate KTVU reported.

The exodus was sparked by a deputy who allegedly committed a double murder earlier this month. He had received a “Not Suited” remark on his psych evaluation, according to the outlet.

The deputy, Devin Williams Jr., 24, is accused in the slaughter of a married couple in Dublin, California. He allegedly shot the couple dead inside their home on Sept. 7 after completing a double shift at the Santa Rita Jail.

Williams — who was reportedly having an affair with the wife — had failed his psychological exam, but was hired in September 2021 nonetheless, KTVU reported, citing four sources familiar with the situation.

Because of liability issues, the sheriff’s department began auditing which other deputies might have failed the tests, but were still hired.

The audit found that 47 deputies were in active duty, despite receiving a “Not Suited” result on their psych evals. Of those, 30 worked at Santa Rita Jail and the remaining 17 have jobs elsewhere, Kelly told the station.

Devin Williams Jr. allegedly killed a married couple inside its home after completing a double shift.
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The nearly 50 deputies were informed of their dismissal from duty in a letter from Sheriff Gregory Ahern dated Sept. 23.

“The Sheriff’s Office has been operating under information provided a number of years ago from POST that we can hire candidates who received a ‘D. Not Suited’ evaluation,” Ahern wrote in the letter obtained by KTVU. “Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

Deputies who were graded “Not Suited” in their evaluations cannot serve as a peace officer in California under state rules, he said.

“Our legal counsel has informed our Office that you will not be authorized to carry a firearm and you cannot make arrests based upon probable cause, issue traffic citations or perform any function reserved for peace officers,” Ahern wrote.

Dublin Police Chief Garrett Holmes, left, and Alameda County Sheriff Sgt. Ray Kelly, right, take part in a press conference announcing the arrest of Devin Williams Jr. on Sept. 7, 2022 in Dublin, California.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office began its audit for liability issues.

He promised to schedule another psychological test for each deputy and resolve the issue quickly.

“Our intention is to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” Ahern wrote. “We also intend to have you return to full duty status once you obtain a ‘Suitable’ finding.”

The 47 deputies will retain pay and benefits and will be placed on assignments not in active duty, according to the letter.

Sheriff spokesperson Lt. Ray Kelly confirmed to KTVU that the audit was prompted by Williams’ alleged crime.

“I know that people are going to assume that all these deputies are killers,” Kelly told the station. “But that’s not true. This test tries to find out if you are psychologically suitable for the job, to handle all the horrible things we see. At the age of 22, sometimes you’re not.”

Candidates for the job receive “Not Suited” results for a range of red flags including mental health issues, financial problems, too many marriages and divorces or drug and alcohol issues, a retired employee told KTVU.

He added that in the past, candidates who failed the evaluation were simply told they wouldn’t be hired but the rules had gotten more lax under Ahern.

“I know this isn’t good,” Kelly said. “But it’s not as bad as it sounds.” 

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