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In new hiring push, Sheriff's Department gives jobs to deputies with criminal records

February 19, 2009 |  6:02 pm

Amid an aggressive push to bolster its ranks with thousands of new deputies, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department loosened its hiring practices and gave jobs to recruits who in the past would have been rejected, according to an LASD watchdog report released Thursday.

Among those hired were applicants with criminal records, drug and alcohol problems and financial woes. One recruit, for example, had been fired for excessive force from another police agency. Another was hired despite being a suspected car thief and resigned months later after being arrested on assault charges. A third candidate was a heavy marijuana and steroid abuser who had been arrested and convicted of underage drinking shortly before he applied to become an LASD deputy.

The report, written by the county’s Office of Independent Review, criticized the LASD for its 2006 decision to abandon a strict hiring policy, in which aspiring sheriff’s deputies were automatically disqualified if they failed to pass an exacting background check or any other part of the application process. In its place, the report found, the department adopted a more “holistic” approach that allowed applicants to be hired if officials determined they had reformed themselves or that past mistakes were insignificant.

The change came as the department was ramping up its hiring. Coming off several years of stiff budget constraints in which the size of the department shrank significantly, sheriff’s officials set out to make up for lost ground in 2006, more than doubling the number of hires from the year before.

“They had a mission and that mission was to hire deputies,” said Michael Gennaco, head of the Office of Independent Review, which oversees the LASD. “Unfortunately, it may have come at a price.”

-- Joel Rubin