Amid an aggressive push to bolster its ranks with thousands of new deputies, the Sheriff's Department loosened its hiring
practices and gave jobs to recruits who in the past would have been rejected, a department watchdog says.
The report by the county's Office of Independent Review says that among those hired were applicants with criminal records, drug and alcohol problems and financial woes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
One recruit, for example, had been released from another police agency after using excessive force while another candidate had used marijuana and steroids and had been convicted of underage drinking shortly before applying to become a deputy, according to the report cited by The Time.
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The report criticized the department for its 2006 decision to abandon a strict hiring policy, in which aspiring deputies were automatically disqualified if they failed to pass an exacting background check or any other part of the application process, The Times reported.
In its place, the report found, the department adopted a more liberal 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 working to increase its ranks. In 2006, the department more than doubled the number of applicants on whom background checks were conducted and hired twice as many candidates over the year before. In the last three years, the agency has hired more than 2,700 deputies.
"They had a mission and that mission was to hire deputies," Michael Gennaco, head of the Office of Independent Review, which oversees the department, said in comments reported by The Times. "Unfortunately, it may have come at a price in the quality of people they hired."