Dozens of applicants were hired by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department although background checks turned up evidence of serious misconduct, according to a newspaper analysis.
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the department made the hires in 2010 after taking over patrol of parks and government buildings from the county police force’s Office of Public Safety, and officers from that agency were given first shot at the newly created jobs.
Many of those officers manipulated their lie detector tests, although others were hired despite histories of accidentally firing their weapons, having sex at work or soliciting prostitutes.
Another officer was hired after admitting to kissing and groping a 14-year-old girl when he was 28, although he insists he was in love and did nothing wrong.
According to a Los Angeles Times review, about 280 county officers were hired by the sheriff’s department, including nearly 100 who made untrue statements, falsified police records or engaged in other acts of dishonesty, and at least 15 were caught cheating on the department’s own polygraph exams.
The newspaper reported that 200 candidates had been rejected by other agencies due to misconduct or failed entrance exams, and 29 new hires had been previously been fired or pressured to resign from other law enforcement jobs due to misconduct or other job-related issues.
Records show about 30 other hires had been convicted of drunken driving, battery or a variety of low-level crimes, and about 50 applicants told background investigators about previous misdeeds such as theft, solicitation of a prostitute or domestic violence.
Another new hire told investigators about having inappropriate sexual contact with two toddlers as a teenager, and another said she’d used her department-issued weapon to shoot at her husband as he ran away during an argument but missed.
Not surprisingly, several of the newly hired deputies with previous misconduct have been accused of wrongdoing since joining the department, including one deputy who was fired for shooting his gun during a dispute outside a fast food restaurant.
The deputy who admitted to a relationship with a teenage girl was also fired from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department after he was accused of using excessive force on prisoners and harassed inmates.
Even so, David McDonald said he was surprised when the L.A. County sheriff’s department hired him as a jail guard.
"How can you put me back in the jails when I already had a problem there?" McDonald told the Los Angeles Times.
McDonald’s problems followed him to his new job, where he’s been disciplined for using physical force with an inmate.
"They want you to be more touchy-feely," said the 53-year-old McDonald. "Whenever you're going to jack up an inmate, you have to call a supervisor first."
The sheriff’s department opened a criminal investigation into the leaked hiring records when authorities learned the Los Angeles Times had them, but investigators also said they would review whether some officers had been improperly hired.
The union that represents deputies tried unsuccessfully to get a court order to block publication of information from the files.
Although the records showed that some applicants were arrested for such crimes as assault under the color of authority or assault with intent to murder and rape, the newspaper focused its analysis only on cases that had been proven in court or in workplace investigations or when the applicants admitted to the wrongdoing.
The newspaper also said it attempted to contact each of the new hires, although many declined comment, did not reply to inquiries or could not be located.
Sheriff Lee Baca declined to comment, but a spokesman said the sheriff was unaware that people with such backgrounds had been hired.
[Image: Angry police officer with nightstick via Shutterstock]