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The L.A. Sheriff’s Dept. is Hiring Cops with Shady Pasts

LA County Sheriff Leroy Baca

LA County Sheriff Leroy Baca

A whopper of an investigation from the L.A. Times found that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — the largest sheriff’s department in America — is hiring cops with histories of disciplinary and abuse of force problems. Of the 280 new hires in 2010 at the department, the paper found that:

  • 188 were rejected for jobs at law enforcement agencies before being hired by the Sheriff’s Department.
  • 97 showed evidence of dishonesty.
  • 92 were disciplined previously by other police agencies for significant misconduct on duty.
  • 29 were fired or pressured to resign from a previous law enforcement job.
  • 15 were flagged by background investigators for trying to manipulate the results of a polygraph exam.

It’s one thing to fail a polygraph. The tests are far from perfect. It’s quite another to get caught trying to cheat on a polygraph test — and then get hired, anyway. And we aren’t talking about, say, a construction job, here. We’re talking about taxpayer-supported officials who carry guns, who wear badges, who are authorized to use force, and upon whose word people are arrested, convicted, and imprisoned.

But that appears to be exactly what happened. From the report:

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.

When the department got word of the L.A. Times investigation, it immediately launched a criminal investigation to find out who leaked the personnel files. (That’s the real scandal, here!) The department’s practice of hiring cops with records of abuse will merely get a “review.” The police union then tried to sue the L.A. Times to prevent the paper from publishing the series.

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