Fired cop showed no red flags during hiring process
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department invests about $40,000 into every deputy it hires, from the day an applicant fills out a form to the day the new deputy is allowed to drive the road alone.
One of those who twice survived extensive background, psychological and other tests, Glenn Coyne, is now awaiting charges after he was arrested on suspicion of burglary and sexual assault.
Coyne was the subject of extensive checks by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked before he joined the Grand Junction Police Department.
He was arrested Thursday by deputy sheriffs after a woman who had called police for help Sunday — Coyne was one of the officers who responded to that call — said Coyne later returned to her house and sexually assaulted her.
Officials with both departments on Friday said they were disturbed that Coyne had survived extensive testing and background checks without his superiors recognizing any signs of looming trouble.
“We are going to do a review,” interim Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper said.
As with any similar instance, “We’re going to re-evaluate if there were any red flags” that went unrecognized when the Sheriff’s Department hired him in February 2006.
Coyne stayed with the Sheriff’s Department less than a year. He took a job as a police patrol officer in January 2007.
Coyne worked for the Santa Rosa County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department from November 2002 to February 2006, when he resigned, according to human resources officials there.
No other information was immediately available as to his conduct or record in Florida.
Officials in Mesa County said their evaluation systems are tailored to root out applicants with tendencies to be unstable or violent.
“We have a pretty darned stringent process,” Undersheriff Rebecca Spiess said.
Nonetheless, the department likely will go back to psychologist Dr. Chris Young, who evaluates prospective deputies, to study what might have happened in Coyne’s case, Spiess said.
Officials will have lots of information to study. The agency’s records include Coyne’s written application and tests as well as recordings of interviews conducted with him.
The evaluation process Coyne survived with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department began with an extensive application that Spiess said is only the first hurdle candidates must clear. Failure to complete the application is often a telltale sign that can result in a candidate being culled, she said.
After that hurdle, Coyne was given an “integrity interview” that “covers their whole life since they were born,” Spiess said. To survive that, “People need to be forthright” and deal directly with such things as excessive drug use, speeding and other misbehaviors that they might be inclined to pass without mention.
Such things are likely to come out during face-to-face background checks that professional-standards people conduct with relatives, friends, references, neighbors and co-workers.
Applicants are required to sign blanket releases clearing people to speak about them openly, Spiess said.
At the time Coyne was going through the process, candidates who cleared the integrity interview then underwent a second interview with a polygraph, or so-called lie detector. That phase of the process has since been combined with the integrity interview, she said.
Candidates must pass physical and medical tests, as well as survive the background and psychological examination, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee them jobs. After vetting by the professional-standards staff, they also must be accepted by the divisions in which they would be assigned, and there is no guarantee that jobs are available in the area to which they apply.
The $40,000 bill per hire includes the evaluations, as well as a 12-week period in which candidates are trained for their territory and jobs.
Candidates can “wash out” during that period, too.
The Police Department process is similar to that used by the Sheriff’s Department, except the police now use voice-stress analysis instead of a polygraph, department spokeswoman Kate Porras said.
Police candidates undergo a 17-week training period they must complete before they’re allowed alone on patrol.
In all, a successful applicant will spend at least six months and as long as a year before becoming a full-time officer.
Coyne’s experience with the Sheriff’s Department didn’t shorten his application time with the police. The police undertake the same process with applicants from the Sheriff’s Department as they would with applicants from outside the area, Porras said.
Unrelated to Coyne, the Sheriff’s Department already had begun a compliance and auditing program looking at all operations, Spiess said.
That program is now looking at the professional-standards unit, she said.
“That may or may not reveal gaps in that process,” she said.