Alameda County sheriff's officials believe 47 deputies who allegedly failed a psychological exam and now have desk jobs will pass the exam when they retake it and get their guns and peace officer powers back, a sheriff's spokesperson said Tuesday.
The comment follows a sheriff's office audit that resulted in the deputies' loss of powers. That audit was prompted by the fatal shooting Sept. 7 of two people allegedly by then-Deputy Devin Williams Jr. of Stockton.
Williams, 24, has been charged with double murder for allegedly shooting a woman he was dating and her husband at the couple's home in Dublin.
"We believe the deputies will likely pass the retest," sheriff's spokesperson Lt. Ray Kelly said Tuesday.
The deputies reassigned represent less than 5% of the force. Thirty of the 47 deputies were assigned to Santa Rita Jail and 17 were assigned to other duties, including patrol, Kelly said.
Sheriff's officials told the Alameda County District Attorney's Office about the reassignments and are unaware of any conflicts with criminal cases. But Kelly said they will keep an eye on that possibility.
A spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office said the office is evaluating the potential impact.
Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "If these deputies were not fit for duty, then how can we trust them to investigate our clients and testify against them in court? How can we trust them to treat people properly at the jail?"
Woods said the "revelation could compromise hundreds of cases -- closed and pending."
But Woods said he needs "more information from the Sheriff and the District Attorney's Office."
He said, "it's infuriating we had to learn about it (the reassignments) from the press."
The audits were conducted on all background investigations performed between January 2016 and the present, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern wrote in a Friday letter to the deputies.
Each of the deputies who were reassigned received a "D-Not Suited" score on the psychological exam.
Ahern said in his letter that the sheriff's office was under the impression that applicants could be hired if they received such a score.
That information was provided "years ago" from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which sets "minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement," according to Ahern.
"Unfortunately, this is not the case," Ahern wrote about the impression his office had.
Sheriff's officials and the county counsel for Alameda County researched that impression and found that it was in error.
No one from the commission responded to an email inquiry or calls about the reassignment of the deputies.
Ahern told the deputies in the letter that they can get a second opinion regarding their initial exam results. If the deputies receive a "Suitable" score, Ahern "can choose to hire the candidate."
Sheriff's officials intend to schedule retake exams for the 47 deputies. All 47 will retain their pay and benefits and can continue to work for the sheriff's office.
The deputies cannot carry a gun, make any arrests, issue traffic citations "or perform any function for peace officers," Ahern wrote.
"Our intention is to resolve this issue as quickly as possible," Ahern said. "We also intend to have you return to full duty status once you obtain a 'Suitable' finding."
Ahern is in the final months as sheriff-coroner. Sheriff-Elect Yesenia Sanchez, a commander in the sheriff's office, defeated her boss and another candidate outright in the June primary election with 52.84% of the vote. Sanchez is scheduled to take office in January.
The future of the criminal cases involving these deputies may also be impacted by voters this year. With current District Attorney Nancy O'Malley retiring, two candidates – civil rights attorney Pamela Price and chief deputy DA Terry Wiley – are facing each other in a runoff election to win the DA seat in the Nov. 8 general election.