LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — A special program in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that gave preferential hiring treatment to friends and relatives of its employees — even some with criminal records — is now over, according to reports Thursday.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports the “Friends of the Sheriff” program, which had been in existence for at least eight years, is now over.
A investigation conducted by the Los Angeles Times found that at least three people were hired through the program between 2005 to 2007, including a friend of Sheriff Lee Baca’s driver who was hired despite having been convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery.
Baca’s nephew became a deputy in 2007 even though he had been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and burglary, according to The Times.
Officials said they didn’t know how many deputies were hired through the “Friends of the Sheriff” program. The Times said records showed that the program screened more than 270 applicants between 2005 and 2007.
Candidates had backgrounds that included arrests for suspicion of drunk driving and burglary, misdemeanor sexual battery, and one applicant even failed to disclose that he was arrested for suspicion of possession of a machine gun.
Baca declined to be interviewed on the matter, the Times said, but sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said some applicants were “moved to the front of the line” under the program.
“They do get fast-tracked … because they’ve got a tradition and history with the department,” but the applicants are held to the same standards as other recruits, Whitmore said.
Details of the “Friends of the Sheriff” program were uncovered just one day after Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers admitted the department hired as many as 80 deputies with questionable backgrounds.
Baca told KCAL9’s Dave Lopez he stands behind the department’s background investigators.
“They found out things the prior hiring process did not, so now we’re in a dilemma,” he said. “This isn’t about me taking on a sense of hysterical behavior. This is me fixing things. This is what I believe in.”
Asked if he had knowledge of the situation, Baca said, “How does one find knowledge when you rely on your subordinates?”
Whitmore said the sheriff’s department will reform hiring practices by adding an extra layer to the process — a three-member panel to review applications. The panel will include two lieutenants and a civilian.
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