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Sonoma County Sheriff's Office
Tuesday May 6th, 2014 :: 02:14 p.m. PDT

Community Message from Sheriff Steve Freitas

In the wake of the death of Andy Lopez, people have questions about several different aspects of the Sheriff’s Office. In an effort to be transparent and factually informative, this document answers many of the most common questions. I am open to this document creating additional community dialog on these or any other topics relating to the Sheriff’s Office. This is your Sheriff’s Office, and I encourage you to be engaged with us so we can provide the entire County with the best possible service.

Are all Deputy Sheriffs hired new to law enforcement?

We primarily hire three different classifications of Deputy Sheriffs: Lateral Hire, Hire from within the Sheriff’s Office, and Deputy Sheriff 1. All of these candidates, no matter how they come to us, are required to successfully complete the entire hiring process for Deputy Sheriff.

• Most of our Deputies are what is known as “lateral hires” in the law enforcement community. These are peace officers who are already working at another law enforcement agency. This type of hiring saves the taxpayers a significant amount of money as lateral Deputy Sheriffs have already attended the basic academy and, in general, spend far less time in the Sheriff’s Office Field Training Program. Historically, 60 to 75% of the Deputy Sheriffs hired by the Sheriff’s Office are laterals.

• We also hire deputies from the ranks of our Detention Division. In these cases the employee then attends the basic police academy as a paid employee of the Sheriff’s Office.

• The last primary classification of hire is what is known as “Deputy 1’s.” These are people who have either put themselves through the basic police academy or who we hire and pay to attend the academy.

What is involved in the hiring process for Deputy Sheriff?

Once a candidate passes the necessary application and examination, he/she moves on to our internal hiring process. The detailed process includes an initial oral board, initial polygraph, followed by a thorough background check. The background check includes:

• Personal contacts with family, friends, neighbors, teachers, co-workers, etc. to assess character and other peace officer suitability qualities.
• Criminal history.
• Non-arrest law enforcement contacts.
• Financial and credit records.
• Prior drug use and associations.

If the candidate successfully completes the steps above, he/she must pass another polygraph, a complete psychological profile, medical exam, and physical fitness assessment. Finally, a one on one interview is held with a senior manager to evaluate the applicant’s suitability with the Sheriff’s Office. This intense hiring process takes at least 4 to 6 months to complete. In the end, less than 3% of applicants are hired. Once hired, the new deputies enter a three week orientation followed by a field training program that lasts 3 to 6 months (more information on this program is available in this document).

All of the testing listed above results in only the most qualified candidates being hired. This testing is so rigorous due to the position of extreme importance that peace officers occupy in our society. I understand that we make mistakes, or some people who pass the testing process ultimately do not perform to our high standards. Internal investigations are conducted in those cases. When warranted, Deputy Sheriffs are provided additional training, disciplined, and in some cases, terminated from employment.
The goal of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is to employ the most qualified staff and we strive to meet this goal through careful and deliberate screening of all applicants.

What is the psychological portion of the hiring process?

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office adheres to specific guidelines and standards regarding the psychological testing portion of the hiring process. The guidelines and standards are approved by what is known as the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). POST is a State regulatory agency that operates under the State Legislature to adopt standards and regulations for all law enforcement agencies in California. Further, all law enforcement agencies, including the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, are bound by law to meet these standards. The tests are administered by a licensed psychiatrist. The Sheriff’s Office strictly follows the POST standards and we are required to pass a POST audit to confirm this compliance every two years. For more details on the psychological guidelines and standards, please refer to or Attachment A.

To view the attachment, you may need to copy the link and paste it to your web browser.

What types of training do Deputy Sheriffs receive? Both pre-hire and existing staff?

All Deputy Sheriffs must attend, or have already attended, a State certified basic police academy. While in the academy the students are known as “recruits.” During the 6-month academy the recruits receive 800 hours of training and education on numerous topics. Topics include ethics, laws, use of force, report writing and many other critical tasks that are required of peace officers. For a course outline from our local academy, administered by the Santa Rosa Junior College, please refer to Attachment B (link below).

To view the attachment, you may need to copy the link and paste it to your web browser.

After being hired, Deputy Sheriffs attend regular training to stay current on previously learned topics and to understand new laws, techniques and other critical tasks. This starts with a one on one Field Training Program with a senior Deputy Sheriff who is designated a Field Training Officer (FTO). This program lasts 12 to 26 weeks and every new Deputy Sheriff must successfully pass this training before they can work as a solo deputy. Our Field Training Program is reviewed and certified by POST.

Additionally, POST mandates certain training and training standards. For example, POST requires that Deputy Sheriffs attend POST approved firearms training two times a year. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office goes above and beyond and require this training four times a year. POST also requires that we provide 24 hours of training every two years. Of those hours, 14 are topics mandated by POST while 10 hours consist of training that we determine but is still POST approved.

Examples of some recently required POST training are arrest and control, emergency vehicle operations and first aid/CPR. An example of discretionary training that we elected to include in 2013 was a 4 hour course on racial profiling. Other training we have conducted over the past two years is the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) which enables Deputy Sheriffs to deal effectively with people suffering from mental health issues. Additionally, many Deputy Sheriffs use County negotiated benefits to attend specific trainings that will help them achieve their individual professional goals.

How does the Sheriff’s Office develop the Use of Firearms and Use of Force policies?

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office uses a service called Lexipol for the primary development of our policy manual. Approximately 90% of law enforcement agencies in California use the Lexipol policy service. The Use of Firearms and Use of Force policies are continually updated when new laws, or court decisions affect these areas. In addition to the attorneys at Lexipol, these policies are reviewed by County Counsel on a regular basis. The policies require Deputy Sheriffs to evaluate potential danger to the community, themselves and the suspect before deciding to use force and determine how much force is appropriate.

In a 1997 ACLU publication, the Houston, Texas, Police Department’s (HPD) Use of Firearms policy was held up as a model policy. Our Use of Firearms policy is very similar to the HPD policy.
Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs are required to attend Use of Force training a minimum of four times a year.

To view the publication and policies listed above, please see Attachments C, D and E.

To view the attachments, you may need to copy the link and paste it to your web browser.

What is the Fatal Incident Protocol and how are incidents investigated?

In 1992, the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association (SCLECA) adopted the Employee Involved Fatal Incident Protocol. This protocol was created so that employing agencies do not investigate their own staff in a criminal investigation. While the criminal investigation is being completed by the investigating agency and the District Attorney, the employing agency does an internal administrative investigation to determine if policies and procedures were followed. The Sheriff’s Office adheres to this protocol whether we are investigating another agency’s fatal incident or if we are the agency that used lethal force.

A year ago, the Sheriff’s Office instituted a process where all deadly use of force cases are automatically reviewed by use of force and firearms trainers. This helps determine if proper training methods were followed and if anything may be learned from the case to possibly improve performance in future cases.

Has the Sheriff’s Office implemented the recommendations cited in the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report from May, 2000?

There has been much discussion recently on the recommendations made by the California Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in their May 2000 report. Some members of the public have asserted that none of the recommendations from the report have been implemented. Of the 27 recommendations made in the report, 18 were specific to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. Of those 18 recommendations, 17 have been implemented by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

For a detailed response to each recommendation please see Attachment F.

To view the attachment, you may need to copy the link and paste it to your web browser.

Note: The Sheriff’s Office is currently exploring options to provide the attachments in Spanish in the future.

Sonoma County Sheriff's Office
2796 Ventura Ave
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 707-565-2650

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