Public Safety & Justice

L.A. County Sheriff's Department Had 15 Misconduct Cases for Recent Hires

January 3, 2014
 

By Robert Faturechi

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has identified 15 cases in which employees who got jobs during a controversial mass hiring in 2010 went on to be disciplined for violating department rules, according to a new report by the agency.

The report comes a month after the Los Angeles Times reported that the Sheriff's Department hired dozens of officers even though background investigators concluded that they had committed serious misconduct, including falsifying records, stealing and soliciting prostitutes.

The Times found that three of those employees faced new accusations of misconduct after joining the department _ far fewer than the 15 cases identified in the new sheriff's report.

The misconduct findings resulted in suspensions, reprimands and in one case, a deputy retiring in lieu of being punished, the department report said. Of the 15 cases, 13 involved sworn deputies and the other two involved non-sworn officials.

Nearly a dozen additional misconduct investigations involving employees hired in 2010 are still pending, officials said.

The report did not detail the instances of misconduct. The Times reported that one of the hires was forced out after firing his service weapon during a dispute outside a fast-food restaurant. Another was investigated for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars in overtime funds.

The employees were among about 280 officers hired from a small county police force called the Office of Public Safety that patrolled county facilities and parks. The OPS was disbanded as a cost-savings measure, with the Sheriff's Department taking over its responsibilities.

The Sheriff's Department was not required to hire any of the officers. Sheriff's investigations found many had problems in their backgrounds, but department brass hired them anyway.

The study, which was submitted to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors this week, marks the first time that Sheriff Lee Baca has acknowledged that some of those hires committed new wrongdoing in his department. In the wake of the Times' report, the Sheriff's Department has admitted that 84 of the OPS hires should not have been given jobs. Of the 84, the new report said, three have since violated department rules.

The study found that 28 of the 199 OPS officers hired as deputies have been the subject of administrative investigations, with five of them being investigated more than once.

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers said Wednesday that the percentage of former OPS officers who had been disciplined seemed high to him, but he did not have the department-wide average to compare it with.

"Any misconduct is cause for concern," he said. "It's always cause for concern."

An investigation found that for nearly 100 OPS officers hired, investigators discovered evidence of dishonesty, such as making untrue statements. At least 15 were caught cheating on the department's own polygraph exams, hiring records show. Twenty-nine of those given jobs previously had been fired or pressured to resign from other law enforcement agencies over concerns about misconduct or workplace performance problems.

One of the new hires admitted kissing and groping a 14-year-old girl when he was 28. Another was forced out of the Los Angeles Police Department after lying to a supervisor. A third admitted to using her service weapon to shoot at her husband as he ran away from her.

In response, the Board of Supervisors demanded answers from Baca. The sheriff acknowledged that the agency's hiring standards were violated but said that he had delegated the authority for making the hiring decisions to his undersheriff at the time, Larry Waldie.

Waldie has told the Times that he was under pressure from county officials to hire as many former county police officers as possible.

Sheriff's officials promised swift changes, and have been considering their options. A high-ranking department official had previously said the agency considered terminating some of the problem deputies but probably wouldn't be able to legally fire anyone for misconduct because sheriff's officials knew about the misconduct when they hired them. What's more realistic, he said, is moving the problem hires to less sensitive positions, giving them more training and putting them on administrative monitoring to limit future misconduct.

(Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.)

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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