Prince George's prosecutors probe cases of officers accused of cheating on tests

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2010; 8:53 PM

A team of prosecutors in Prince George's County has begun reviewing all the criminal cases initiated by more than 30 county police officers who face possible suspension of their law enforcement powers, amid an investigation into a cheating scandal during their time in the police academy, authorities said Wednesday.

Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said he initiated the review Wednesday, after The Washington Post reported that the officers were the subject of a far-reaching internal affairs investigation into a cheating scandal while they were being trained. Records indicate that the cadets, who graduated in July 2009, received perfect scores on several comprehensive and mandatory tests.

"We assembled a team of prosecutors in the office to start finding out which cases they were on and make a case by case determination whether these cases should stand or not," Ivey said, adding it was "too early to tell" how many cases that might be.

Ivey said that he was only informed of the situation Wednesday. He said that he had since spoken with Police Chief Roberto Hylton about it but declined to discuss the details of their conversation. Hylton scheduled a news conference on the topic for 5 p.m. Wednesday, then canceled it and said a written statement would be issued later.

In a previous interview, Hylton said that after he was notified of the cheating, he ordered an internal affairs audit of all the files associated with that class and the two that graduated after it. Already, two commanders who raised concerns about the improprieties have been transferred, and the probe now encompasses 146 officers. At least 34 of those face specific cheating allegations.

The cheating allegations first 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 who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they could be disciplined for discussing internal department matters. 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.

An internal memo from the department's former training commander to his bosses in August suggested 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 said that the department needed to devise a strategy for handling arrests made by the 32 Prince George's officers and to notify Ivey's office. The officers are at risk of losing their certification from the Maryland Police and Correctional Training commissions, and that might require them to be pulled off the street and re-tested.

Hylton has said that he felt the memo might have overstated the problems.

"People are attempting to manipulate and exaggerate things," he said. "Everybody does not have the entire story."

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