We now know that all was perhaps not so well with the Alameda County Sheriff's deputy whom the sheriff's office had previously said had a spotless record, after he turned himself in for a double murder.
The shocking double-homicide occurred in a quiet subdivision in Dublin on September 7, and 24-year-old sheriff's deputy Devin Williams Jr. was quickly suspected of the crime and soon turned himself in to the agency he worked for. Within days we learned that it was an act of passion, and Williams was "blinded by love," his mother says, amid an affair he was having with an older, married woman.
The victims were 42-year-old Maria Tran, a psychiatric nurse, and 57-year-old Benison Tran, her husband. Mrs. Tran reportedly met Williams while she was at work — presumably when he was a patient — at John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office never confirmed whether Williams had any history of mental illness, and all we knew was that Williams was not hired by the Stockton Police Department for unknown reasons after the conclusion of a one-year probationary period in January 2021.
Now, as KTVU reports, we are learning that Williams received a "D. Not Suited" grade on his psychological evaluation for the deputy job. And the sheriff's office is saying that they had been operating under the belief that "D. Not Suited" evaluations did not preclude individuals from being hired, but they have now learned that is not the case. This has resulted in 47 deputies — about 10% of the force in Alameda County — being put on paid leave pending new evaluations.
A letter went out to these 47 deputies who also received "D. Not Suited" evaluations, explaining that POST (California's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training) will not allow them to continue on as deputies unless they receive better evaluations. The agency says that officers have a right to get a second opinion from a psychologist, and "in the event that the second opinion is 'Suitable,' then the hiring authority, the Sheriff, can choose to hire the candidate based upon the 'Suitable' finding."
The fact that 10% of the deputies on the force were given these unsatisfactory psych evaluations has caused an uproar, in particular among civil rights advocates with concerns about how these deputies may have handled their cases. Civil rights attorney Adante Pointer spoke to KTVU, wondering aloud how many cases might need to be reopened based on this revelation. And another attorney working on a consent decree at the Santa Rita Jail, Kara Janssen, found the news "deeply concerning."
Sheriff's office spokesperson Lt. Ray Kelly tells KTVU that the leave letters came out of an audit conducted in recent weeks that was prompted by the Williams homicide case, and liability concerns that the department now has. But he suggested this was mostly a matter of new, young hires to the department who may simply be too green for the job — not necessarily that they have mental illnesses. And the department has been under "tremendous pressure" to make more hires.
"I know that people are going to assume that all these deputies are killers," Kelly says, speaking to KTVU. "But that's not true. This test tries to find out if you are psychologically suitable for the job, to handle all the horrible things we see. At the age of 22, sometimes you're not. I know this isn't good. But it's not as bad as it sounds."
The 47 officers now on leave are receiving full pay pending their second opinions, but some are questioning whether these second opinions can even be trusted.
A retired officer who spoke anonymously with KTVU said that the psych evaluations used to be stricter under the predecessor of Sheriff Greg Ahern, and candidates who were deemed unsuited for the job simply weren't hired. This source suggested that the reasons might have to do with mental health history, but they also could be financial issues, too many marriages and divorces in a candidate's history, or drug and alcohol issues.
And another source told KTVU that there was some corruption with these evaluations, and that Ahern "often passes his friends and family on these tests to get them hired and nixes the candidates he doesn't like." Kelly replied to a question about this saying, "I don't know about that. I hope he's not operating like that."
Williams had been employed with the sheriff's office for just over a year, but was not on active duty. He primarily provided security at the jail and at county courthouses.
The department previously said that his record was "immaculate" and that he had passed all of his necessary evaluations.