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Probe widens into alleged cheating by Pr. George's officers-in-training

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By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 10:04 PM

Prince George's County police might be forced to pull more than 30 officers off the street because of a cheating scandal at the department's training academy in which all the cadets received perfect scores on several comprehensive and mandatory tests, internal records show.

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Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton has ordered a far-reaching and politically charged internal affairs investigation. Already, two commanders who raised concerns about the improprieties have been transferred, and the probe now encompasses three training classes and 146 officers. At least 34 of those face specific cheating allegations.

"We're conducting an audit of every single objective that is required to be met," Hylton said. "I'm trying to get to the bottom of it."

The cheating allegations surfaced last year, when a cadet dismissed for medical reasons complained that an instructor had been providing students with answers, according to sources familiar with the academy. Records indicate that the problems were pervasive, affecting all 34 cadets who graduated from the complaining student's class.

On at least 11 tests measuring several basic policing skills, including arrest procedures and how to testify in court, all the cadets in the class scored 100 percent, according to department records. On a 12th test, all but two scored 100 percent, according to the records.

At least 11 tests were administered in the final two weeks before the cadets were to graduate, records show. Sources said the tests should have been spaced out over the duration of the class.

On one exam, the student who already had been dismissed scored 100 percent, even though he could not have taken the test, records show.

An internal memo from the department's former training commander to his bosses suggests that the department strip the 32 officers working for the Prince George's department of their policing powers. The two other graduates of the training class work for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police and are not specifically addressed in the document.

The memo says that the department needs to devise a strategy for handling arrests already made by the 32 Prince George's officers, who graduated in July 2009.

Sources for this story - all sworn police officers familiar with the academy - spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could be disciplined for talking about department matters without approval. They allowed The Washington Post to view internal documents about the case.

Training and certification of police cadets is strictly governed statewide by the Maryland Police and Correctional Training commissions, which regularly inspect police academies' training files, including testing records, to ensure that officers are ready for patrol.

Cadets can't receive their guns and badges without being certified by the state commission, and in rare circumstances, the commissions can intervene so police officers deemed improperly trained are called back to class.


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