Society

L.A. Sheriff’s Department Hired Officers With History of Misconduct, Investigation Reveals

| by Allison Geller

A recent investigation by the Los Angeles Times into the hiring practices of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reveals that the department made dozens of hires with a history of misconduct, including sexual misconduct and violence.

As part of its ongoing Behind the Badge series on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the most recent report uncovered the officers’ internal files, including audio recordings of interviews. It shows that of 400 applicants, 280 were hired by the department, including 188 who had been rejected from law enforcement jobs elsewhere.

Hires admitted to or were found guilty of a range of offenses and misconduct, including having sex at work, soliciting prostitutes, firing a service weapon accidentally or off the job, inappropriate relations with minors, and manipulating the results of lie detector tests. Some had also failed entrance exams.

David McDonald, for example, now 53, was hired as a jailer despite admitting that he had a relationship with a 14-year-old girl at the age of 28, who he “kissed and groped.”  

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This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

“I was in love,” he said in an interview with The Times. “I wasn’t being a bad guy.”

Furthermore, after being disciplined for using excessive force on inmates, the department put McDonald back in the jails to continue doing his job.

“They want you to be more touchy-feely,” he said. “Whenever you’re gonna jack up an inmate, you have to call a supervisor first.”

The files that were leaked to the Times also showed hires who were charged, but not convicted, of crimes. These charges included assault under the color of authority and assault with intent to murder and rape.

When questioned, department higher-ups maintained that they did not know about the hiring practices.

“I was under the impression that people with backgrounds like that were not being hired,” said retired Sheriff's Department commander Edward Rogner, who was involved in the department’s expansion but not directly in hiring.

Larry Waldie, another now-retired officer who was the current sheriff Lee Baca’s second-in-command at the time, said they were under “significant pressure” from the county Board of Supervisors to make as many new hires as possible.

“We had to have grave reasons for not hiring them,” Waldie said.

The department is currently launching its own criminal investigation on the document leak, and said it would review some applicants who may have been improperly hired.