Prince George's police transfer instructor in cheating scandal

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 9, 2010; 9:19 PM

The Prince George's County police academy instructor accused of providing students with test answers and tampering with scores was transferred out of his teaching job late Friday as internal affairs investigators continued to probe allegations of cheating, authorities said.

The instructor, who denies wrongdoing, was transferred to the police department's sex offender registration unit, where he will work as a detective, registering sex offenders and tracking down those who fail to register, said Maj. Andrew Ellis, a department spokesman. Ellis said the transfer is a direct consequence of the scandal that has cast a shadow over the academy class that graduated in July 2009.

Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton has said the instructor recorded all the students as receiving perfect scores on several tests because he was too lazy to write down their actual grades. Records show that on at least 11 tests measuring basic police skills - including how to make an arrest and how to testify in court - the entire class was recorded as scoring 100 percent. In at least one case, Hylton said, the instructor "basically provided some answers prior to the administration of the test."

Hylton "made a decision that [the instructor] needed to be transferred out of the academy due to the fact that he had administered an improper exam last year," Ellis said. "The fact that we discovered that there were errors in transcribing the tests onto the master sheets raised questions in the chief's mind, and so it was decided, in the best interests of the department and in the best interests of the current ongoing investigation, that he be transferred."

Allegations denied

Neither Ellis nor Hylton has named the instructor, but law enforcement sources identified him as Brian Fowble. In a telephone interview, Fowble would not say what happened. But he denied recording perfect scores that were not earned or providing answers to students before administering tests.

"I am 100 percent flat denying that," he said. "That did not occur."

Fowble confirmed that he had been transferred. He said he could not comment on records that show all the students as receiving perfect scores. He said he believed that the students in the class, called Session 115, had learned the skills that they were required to learn.

Allegations of cheating involving Session 115 surfaced last year. Thirty-four students graduated from that class in July 2009. Thirty-two went to work for the Prince George's police, and two went to work for the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. Questions remain about the legitimacy of those officers' state certification, although the chief has said the instructor, not the students, seems to bear most of the responsibility for any wrongdoing. The officers do not appear to have cheated, and they will not be suspended, Hylton and other officials have said.

"The student officers were following the instructions of their instructor," Ellis said. "Our police academy is paramilitary, and those student officers have to follow ... the directions of their instructor. So I would have to say it would not be within the culture of paramilitary organizations to question an instructor."

Hylton has ordered internal affairs investigators to audit all the records of Session 115 and the two classes that followed it, sessions 116 and 117. Records reviewed so far turned up irregularities other than grade tampering.

On one test, for example, everyone in the class gave the same incorrect answer to one question, and it was scored as being correct, the audit showed. On another test - technically only two questions, although students had to fill in several blanks - four students failed, scoring 50 percent, but they were recorded as receiving a perfect score, the audit showed. Authorities said the students demonstrated mastery of the subject on other tests.

Disciplinary action

The instructor has been fined for providing students with test answers, and he could face other disciplinary action for awarding students undeserved perfect scores, authorities said. Other officers could also be disciplined as the investigation continues, Ellis said.

Ellis said the former instructor's job in the sex offender unit requires less record-keeping than did his job at the academy.

"You can talk to any teacher, and they'll tell you, the amount of paperwork that they have to maintain and manage can be enormous," he said. "And we don't see that same amount of paperwork in the sex offender registry unit."

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