Double-Homicide Brings New Problem to Light
(CA) – The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is facing a major loss of credibility with their constituents. On September 7, Maria and Benison Tran were shot and killed by off-duty deputy, Devon Williams Jr. 24-year old Williams was having an affairs with 42-year old Maria Tran. “Williams was ‘blinded by love,’ his mother says.”
“The department previously said that his record was “immaculate” and that he had passed all of his necessary evaluations.” This turned out to be far from the truth.
Mrs. Tran reportedly met Williams while she was at work — presumably when he was a patient — at John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office never confirmed whether Williams had any history of mental illness, and all we knew was that Williams was not hired by the Stockton Police Department for unknown reasons after the conclusion of a one-year probationary period in January 2021.
Psychological Evaluation for Law Enforcement
If Williams did meet Mrs. Tran when he was a patient at the John George Psychiatric Hospital, shouldn’t this have raised red flags? Perhaps Williams was somehow able to hide that information. But the Sheriff’s Office can’t claim complete ignorance. Not when they knew the results from his psychological evaluation.
Now, as KTVU reports, we are learning that Williams received a “D. Not Suited” grade on his psychological evaluation for the deputy job. And the sheriff’s office is saying that they had been operating under the belief that “D. Not Suited” evaluations did not preclude individuals from being hired, but they have now learned that is not the case. This has resulted in 47 deputies — about 10% of the force in Alameda County — being put on paid leave pending new evaluations.
After the murder of the Trans, the Sheriff’s Office looked into other hires and found an additional 47 officers had been hired who had failed their psychological evaluation. A full 10% of their officers. The officers were placed on administrative leave.
Lieutenant Downplays Risk in Hiring Those “Not Suited”
The spokesperson for the Alameda Count Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Ray Kelly, tried to downplay the risk to the public.
“I know that people are going to assume that all these deputies are killers,” Kelly says, speaking to KTVU. “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. I know this isn’t good. But it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
About Psychological Evaluations
California uses the Written Peace Officer Psychological Evaluation (WPOPE). Here in Texas we use the Minnesota Multiphasic Psychological Inventory (MMPI). I can’t imagine they’re too much different, but I only have decent knowledge about the MMPI. The tests have hundreds of questions. There are several questions that will be asked many times but worded differently. This is an attempt to verify your truthfulness.
In his statement, Lt. Kelly is correlating unsuitable with age. That’s not really what the tests do. If it did, you would never get young new hires. The test is looking for troubling personality traits. Honesty is definitely one of them, but there are many more such as violent tendencies, a desire for power over others… There will also be a verbal evaluation with a psychiatrist.
Even with all that, there are no guarantees. In August of 2015, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office hired an individual to be a deputy. He was arrested in November of 2015, three months after being hired. The deputy, Matthew Adams, was arrested for sexual assault. A 15-year old child made an outcry that he had been sexually abusing her since she was 13. Adams was committing criminal acts, referred to as an “ongoing sexual relationship,” when he took, and passed, the psychological evaluation.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office did place all the deputies who had been listed as “not suited” on administrative leave. They had no choice. “POST (California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training) will not allow them to continue on as deputies unless they receive better evaluations.”
It’s troubling that the Sheriff’s Office is trying to downplay the egregious incompetence in hiring these individuals. This is a huge liability issue for the county. They knowingly hired people who were deemed by a psychiatrist to not be suitable. Civil rights attorneys are up in arms over the discovery of what must have been an administrative decision to hire them. Any cases that those 48 officers were involved in are now in question.
I’m at a loss to understand why an agency would place themselves in such an indefensible position. Could they really be that ignorant?