Exam-Scam Suspects Leave Force

Police Officers Accused of Involvement in Promotional Cheating

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; Page B08

Two Fairfax County police officers accused in a cheating scandal involving promotional exams have left the department, and two others have been placed on administrative duties with pay, according to police sources.

First Lt. Susan Lamar, 44, an assistant commander in the organized crime-narcotics unit, retired last week after 23 years with the department, sources said. Sgt. Keela M. Lowry, 39, the county's first black female police supervisor, resigned last month, they said.

The scandal erupted last month when Lamar was accused of offering questions from the police department's upcoming sergeant's exam to an officer studying for the exam. Instead of taking the questions, the officer turned in the lieutenant, prompting an internal investigation. Lowry, who was on the testing committee, has since been accused of leaking the questions to Lamar.

Lamar and Lowry could not be located for comment.

Two other sergeants -- Eric P. Leeds and Michael J. Guston -- have been placed on administrative leave with pay while the investigation continues, the sources said. Both declined to comment.

The police internal affairs unit is also investigating the 2006 sergeant's exam, on which Lowry did well and was soon promoted. The written test is given every three years, along with an oral "assessment center," and a promotional list for each rank is created based on the total performance on all test phases.

Mary Ann Jennings, a Fairfax police spokeswoman, confirmed that four people had been linked to the cheating allegations and that one had retired and one had resigned. An officer who retires is allowed to collect pension and benefits, but an officer who resigns cannot, Jennings said.

Meanwhile, a new test was quickly composed so that the promotional exam can still be given Saturday.

In 2008, Fairfax police officers were paid base salaries ranging from about $45,000 to $81,631 for the most experienced officers, county records show. Sergeants were paid a minimum base of about $74,000 and a maximum of $85,713, though some officers and sergeants earn more by working overtime.

Jennings said more than 30 officers were elevated to sergeant in the past three years based on their performance on the 2006 test. Some officers have said that if some of their colleagues were unfairly promoted after the 2006 test, then other officers were unfairly denied promotions and their accompanying pay raises. They asked how the department would rectify that and whether an outside agency should be brought in to investigate.

Jennings said: "The question remains, how does the police department make it right when we don't know who, if anyone, didn't get promoted because of what happened? We're still investigating to see how many people might have been involved. We're trying to be fair. But the bottom line is, it's time to replace that [promotional] list."

She also said there was no reason to ask an outside agency to investigate. The police internal affairs unit uncovered the current problems, and "given the scope and quality of investigations conducted by IA, we see no reason to change our practices," she said.

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