Nearly thirty of those hired have convictions for battery, disturbing the peace reduced from prostitution, violence against wives, theft, and even drunk driving, remark California DUI attorneys. How many of those cops were involved in California DUI investigations or prosecutions?
The Sheriff's Department hired dozens of Los Angeles Southern California officers even though background investigators found they had committed serious misconduct on or off duty, sheriff's files show, says the LA Times.
The department made the hires in 2010 after taking over patrols of parks and government buildings from a little-known L.A. County police force. Officers from that agency were given first shot at new jobs with the Sheriff's Department. Investigators gave them lie detector tests and delved into their employment records and personal lives.
The Times reviewed the officers' internal hiring files, which also contained recorded interviews of the applicants by sheriff's investigators.
Ultimately, about 280 county officers were given jobs, including applicants who had accidentally fired their weapons, had sex at work and solicited prostitutes, the records show.
For nearly 100 hires, investigators discovered evidence of dishonesty, such as making untrue statements or falsifying police records. At least 15 were caught cheating on the department's own polygraph exams.
Twenty-nine of those given jobs had previously had been fired or pressured to resign from other law enforcement agencies over concerns about misconduct or workplace performance problems. Nearly 200 had been rejected from other agencies because of past misdeeds, failed entrance exams or other issues.
Several of those with past misconduct have been accused of wrongdoing since joining the department, including one deputy who was terminated after firing his service weapon during a dispute outside a fast-food restaurant.
David McDonald was hired despite admitting to sheriff's investigators he had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl whom he kissed and groped. He was 28 at the time.
"I was in love," he said in an interview with The Times. "I wasn't being a bad guy."
McDonald had been fired from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department amid allegations he used excessive force on prisoners. A fellow deputy told a supervisor that he didn't want to work with McDonald because he harassed inmates.
L.A. County sheriff's officials made him a jail guard, a decision that surprised even McDonald.
"How can you put me back in the jails when I already had a problem there?" McDonald told the newspaper.
Since being hired by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, McDonald said he has been disciplined in connection with using physical force on an inmate.
"They want you to be more touchy-feely," he said of the discipline. "Whenever you're gonna jack up an inmate, you have to call a supervisor first."
After sheriff's officials learned The Times had access to the records, they launched a criminal investigation to determine who had leaked them. They also said they would review whether some applicants had been improperly hired. The union representing deputies unsuccessfully tried to get a court order blocking publication of information from the files.
The records provide a rare look into hiring decisions at the nation's largest sheriff's department, an agency dogged in recent years by a string of scandals related to deputy abuse and racially biased policing.
The department's hiring files detail proven and unproven allegations of misconduct based on information from past employers, romantic partners and others. The files also document when applicants were arrested or charged for alleged crimes but not convicted. One new hire had been charged with assault under the color of authority, and another had been arrested for assault with intent to murder and rape.
The Times, however, focused its analysis on allegations that had been proved in court, sustained in workplace investigations or in cases where the applicants themselves admitted to wrongdoing to sheriff's investigators.
The Times attempted to contact all of the new hires through visits to their homes, phone calls or by email. More than a third granted interviews or declined to comment. Others received inquiries but did not respond. Some could not be located. Of those who did respond, some disputed the contents in their files. Others characterized past problems as mistakes made many years ago that did not reflect how qualified they are to work in law enforcement today.
Law enforcement experts said hiring officers with problematic backgrounds undermines the department's integrity.
I was under the impression that people with backgrounds like that were not being hired.”— Edward Rogner, a retired Sheriff's Department commander
"Cops are held to a higher standard than the average member of society because we've got to be able to trust them," said Edward Rogner, a retired Sheriff's Department commander who was involved in the expansion but not in hiring decisions.
When told about The Times' findings, Rogner added: "I was under the impression that people with backgrounds like that were not being hired."
Sheriff Lee Baca declined to comment, but his spokesman said Baca was not aware people with such backgrounds were hired.
Before he knew of the newspaper's investigation, Baca told Times reporters that people with records of violence or dishonesty have no place in law enforcement. He said applicants who had been fired from other agencies shouldn't be given a second chance, and that he would not hire applicants with histories of illegal sexual conduct.
"Men that take women and use them as a sexual object are going to always come up against my wrath," he said.
As a county police officer, Ferdinand Salgado had just gotten off work when he was arrested on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute who was actually an undercover cop at a Yum Yum Donuts parking lot in El Monte. According to authorities, he grinned at her, asked for oral sex and arranged to meet her at a motel.
He pleaded to a lesser charge of disturbing the peace. During his Sheriff's Department interview, he denied he said anything to the woman.
"I ain't buying it," an investigator told him after reviewing the police report. "You know you're not telling me the truth."
Salgado, who was hired as a jail guard and has since left the agency, wasn't the only one with a conviction on his record.
Records show almost 30 other hires had been convicted of drunk driving, battery or a variety of lower-level crimes. About 50 disclosed to sheriff's background investigators misdeeds such as petty theft, soliciting prostitutes and violence against spouses.
One hire told investigators of having inappropriate sexual contact with two toddlers as a teenager.
In another case, Linda Bonner was given a job after revealing that she used her department-issued weapon to shoot at her husband as he ran away from her during an argument. He wasn't hit; he was lucky he was running in a zigzag pattern, she told investigators, because if not the end result "would have been a whole lot different."
About four years ago, a Los Angeles County police force called the Office of Public Safety was disbanded. Its responsibilities — patrolling county buildings, parks and hospitals — were handed over to the 18,000-person Sheriff's Department in an effort to save money.
The Sheriff's Department was not required to hire any of the former county officers, officials said.
The agency ended up hiring about 280. The majority were taken on as sworn deputies, while others were hired as custody assistants in the department's troubled jail system, security guards or for other lower-level positions.
Waldie, now retired, said he personally reviewed many of the applicants' files. He said he was unaware of any hires with histories of significant misconduct.
Presented with some of The Times' findings, Waldie said: "That information was not brought to me ... I don't recall any of these specifics so don't ask me anymore."
Waldie then said he and his aides were under "significant pressure" from the county Board of Supervisors and other officials to hire as many county officers as possible.
"We had to have grave reasons for not hiring them," Waldie said.