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D.C. police official accused over security exam

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By Allison Klein and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 22, 2010; 8:30 PM

New details emerged Monday about the testing scandal that led to a top D.C. police official being placed on leave, as community and D.C. Council members rallied to her defense in an effort to preserve her job several weeks before a new mayor takes office.

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Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes, one of the most public figures in the department, was placed on administrative leave Friday for "an allegation that she was involved in compromising a test" taken by top brass.

Police officials declined to offer more details, but council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said Groomes is alleged to have given out answers to a time-consuming, open-book exam that tested top commanders on homeland security and other intelligence issues.

Many commanders had not met the Nov. 5 deadline to take the test, and Groomes allegedly tried to help several of them complete the requirement quickly by giving them the answers. She is not accused of cheating when she took the test.

"She supposedly said: 'Hey, you have to get this done, you are overdue. Here, here's the answers. Just get this in,' " said Mendelson, head of the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee.

He said some of those people allegedly reported her.

Without being specific, Groomes admitted a lapse in judgment Friday, saying, "I am sorry for my actions and bad judgment . . .and for the discredit I caused to the best chief, department . . .and city."

Neither Groomes nor Chief Cathy L. Lanier responded to a request for comment Monday.

The situation could put Lanier in a difficult position. Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the labor committee of Lodge 1 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said it is a reflection of the department's leadership.

"What everybody in the community should be asking is, are we as professional as we should be?" Baumann said. "I think this raises some serious questions about the management of this police department."

Baumann said that the big question is whether there were specific instructions against giving help, and what the goals of the test were. He said that other departmental tests are often given open-book or allow members to offer help.

Baumann also questions why Groomes is the only official placed on leave, and why, if others received help from her, they have not been sanctioned as well.

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