from the when-all-you-have-is-bad-apples... dept
Information recently published by the LA Times indicates it may be tougher landing a job in retail than to be employed by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Obviously, the LASD has to hire from the human race, but considering the responsibilities inherent in these positions, you'd think the department would be a bit more selective.
What's been uncovered by Robert Fautrechi and Ben Poston ranges from collections of minor offenses to some truly troubling (and criminal) behavior.
The Times reviewed the officers' internal hiring files, which also contained recorded interviews of the applicants by sheriff's investigators.Did I say a "bit" more selective? Make that "tons" more selective. Apparently the LASD is a firm believer in that famous bit of mutual fund boilerplate: "past performance is not an indicator of future success." The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department isn't looking for the best men and women for the job. It's just looking for warm bodies.
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.
Here's something that apparently won't prevent you from landing an LASD job.
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.It's OK, though. McDonald has an explanation.
"I was in love," he said in an interview with The Times. "I wasn't being a bad guy."Seems legit. Time to clear a few thousand people off the sex offender registry. "Love" is all you need.
Linda D. Bonner, jailer - Fired a weapon at her husband who was (according to her) fortunately running in a zigzag pattern, or "things would be much different." Her response to publication was that the sheriff's office was "wrong" about her background.The Sheriff's office claims it was pressured to hire several officers in the wake of the Dept. of Public Safety disbanding and dropping its duties on the LASD. Apparently, it's OK to do a lousy job if you're under pressure. The person who first vetted the applicants' files, former Undersheriff Larry Waldie, first stated there needed to be "grave reasons" to not hire potential employees. When pressed further, Waldie simply shut the conversation down.
David E. Esparza, jailer - Stole $2,200 worth of military equipment. This theft wasn't initially disclosed during interviews. Esparza offered no response other than to state the information was "confidential."
Edward Marquez, jailer - While working for an unnamed sheriff's department, Marquez pulled over a car in which his girlfriend was a passenger and attempted to issue a ticket to the male driver. His girlfriend filed a complaint with the department.
William Salazar, deputy sheriff - Displayed his gun during a confrontation with a park patron who approached him about walking his dog without a leash. Fired his shotgun in the air in a police department parking lot. Suspended for a day for suspicion of falsifying timecards.
Ferdinand Salgado, jailer - While serving as a county police officer, was suspended for soliciting an undercover cop.
Waldie said: "That information was not brought to me ... I don't recall any of these specifics so don't ask me anymore."The county spokesman has, of course, denied placing pressure on the sheriff's department to hire more officers. Both narratives are non-starters considering how quickly the buck is being passed. But Waldie is likely correct about one thing: there was pressure.
Internal Sheriff's Department records reviewed by The Times show the union representing the former county officers was also lobbying Waldie to hire specific members, including some who had committed serious misconduct during their careers…Once you're on the "inside," you're golden, especially if there's a powerful union backing you up.
One taped recording of a background interview suggests the department made special accommodations for the county officers.
In the recording, a sheriff's investigator tells an applicant who was caught cheating on his polygraph exam that normally that would have meant "goodbye, you're done, there's no second chances." The investigator then told the applicant that he and other suspected cheaters might not be disqualified "as a favor because, you know, it's law enforcement." The applicant was eventually hired.The Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) has fought hard to keep this information from surfacing, as Reason reports.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), the union that represents LASD deputies, tried in September 2013 to stop the records from being unveiled, going after the Times and the reporter who had acquired the records, Robert Faturechi, saying he unlawfully possessed background investigation files containing personal information of deputies.The union tried to secure a court order temporarily blocking the publication but the judge shot it down, claiming the union failed to present evidence supporting its claims that publication would cause "irreparable harm or immediate danger."
"What part of 'stolen property' is such a mystery to the L.A. Times?" ALADS President Floyd Hayhurst said in a statement on the ALADS website. "If any harm comes to deputy sheriffs or their families because of the stolen files, we will hold the Los Angeles Times responsible for their complete lack of journalistic integrity," Hayhurst said.
“The court declines to issue [an order] imposing a prior restraint on defendants’ free speech based on the speculative hearsay testimony of anonymous witnesses,” she wrote.The Sheriff's Department itself opened up an investigation into the "leak" of hiring documents and ALADS followed up its temporary injunction attempt one month later with a lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction. This too was rejected by the judge, again citing the union's lack of evidence and the First Amendment's protections against prior restraint. A week after being shot down, ALADS issued its statement questioning the "journalistic integrity" of the LA Times for daring to expose the sheriff's department's shoddy hiring practices.
Rather than investigate the leaks and file lawsuits attempting to block this info, both entities would be better served throwing some time and energy into overhauling its hiring practices and working towards ensuring only the best applicants get the job -- not just those with "insider" connections.