Sheriff waived psychological exam for troubled former deputy convicted in road rage case

Tests required by department's accrediting agency
Posted at 6:29 PM, Oct 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 02:10:40-04

A former Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy off the job and in jail, convicted of two misdemeanors after an off-duty road rage argument in February.

Local law enforcement departments routinely give psychological exams as part of the screening process in hiring police officers and sheriff's deputies.

But the I-Team has uncovered that the sheriff’s office waived  a psych exam when they hired her.

Psychological exams are not required by state law, but they are considered a “best practice” and are required by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's own accrediting agency.

 “It looked like all those issues that she had in the past, she had put those behind her,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, describing his former employee Sheila Langlais.

 A jury convicted the former sheriff's deputy last week in connection with an off-duty road rage incident, in which she displayed a gun and threatened another driver at a Palm Harbor apartment complex.

 Before she was a Pinellas County Deputy, Langlais resigned from the Tarpon Springs and Pinellas Park Police Departments, after having dozens of disciplinary issues, including failing to end a pursuit, having a romantic relationship with her supervisor and wrongly arresting a suspect who "spent 39 days in jail unnecessarily."

 Yet Sheriff Gualtieri waived her psychological exam.

 "There's no requirement that the psychological be done,” said Gualtieri.

 The sheriff says he waived her psychological exam because she was already employed by the department.

 The paperwork in Langlais' file shows that she came to work as a civilian employee for the sheriff's office at Pinellas Safe Harbor in March of 2013.

 She was hired as a full time deputy just five months later.

 The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA which is one of the accrediting agencies for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says "An emotional stability and psychological fitness examination of each candidate for a sworn position is conducted and assessed by a qualified professional prior to the appointment to probationary status.”

 A spokesperson says the rule would apply even if an employee worked for a department in a different capacity.

 Experts say psychological exams are one of many measures used to help predict how potential officers will deal with stressful situations.

 The Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk County Sheriff's Offices as well as Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg Police Departments all say they never waive psychological exams.

 “They are not the end all be all. I look at lots of them and we take them in context, but it's not a big deal,” said Gualtieri.

 “The psychological is a very broad based looking at the fringes. It’s not going deep and it’s not something that’s going to shed light on big personality flaws or anything like that,” he said.

 Sheriff Gualtieri says Langlais had good job performance during the two-and-a-half years that she worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and says his department immediately held her accountable for the off-duty incident.