ATLANTA (AP) – After a year-long investigation, Georgian officials clear out 32 cadets trained as state troops claiming they cheated on a test.
Last year’s fraud allegations resulted in the state firing the 32 cadets and resigning Mark McDonough, then head of Georgia State Patrol.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which oversees the training of state and local law enforcement officers nationwide, tells news outlets that it has unlocked all but one member of the training class.
“They made us feel like scammers and we weren’t,” Daniel Cordell, one of the fired cadets, told WSB-TV.
The one cadet who was actually betrayed submitted his resignation. The other 32 were fired after an internal investigation found that they had been using an unattended speed detection test.
“Did the cadets work together and use their computers? Yes. There is no doubt what they did. Did they mean to deceive, lie, cheat? No,” said Mike Ayers, executive director of the POST council.
Ayers said the investigation found the soldiers believed they were allowed to work together and use computers and electronic devices to test online. The academy staff said the soldiers misunderstood them. Two instructors were decertified following the POST investigation. Ayers said sanctions were recommended for the resigned cadet, the two instructors, and a cadet from a previous class. He said these four cases will be appealed.
The 32 discharged soldiers have retained their certification and can be reinstated as police officers.
“There is no evidence that these soldiers were deliberately deceived,” said Ayers.
McDonough, who described the fraud allegations as a “punch in the stomach”, could not be reached for comment. Kemp referred all questions to POST through a spokesman. Current state patrol officials also declined to comment and cited ongoing litigation.
28 soldiers have filed lawsuits against the agency, said attorney Jeff Peil, who represents two of the plaintiffs.
“It seems that those responsible did not want to take the blame and leave everything back to the cadets,” Peil told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
It is unclear whether the state patrol will offer the soldiers their jobs back. Cordell, 32, said he wasn’t sure he would accept such an offer.
He said his dismissal made landing another job difficult. He was hired by a nationwide retailer months later.
“The damage to me was financial, emotional and serious,” he said.
POST noted that while the soldiers were not specifically told to cheat by their instructors, they had no intention of circumventing the rules.
“We know what we’ve heard,” said Cordell, who found the test wasn’t monitored like all other exams. “And we were taught to follow instructions or we would do pushups.”
Ayers said POST takes decertification seriously.
“Had there been an issue with their integrity violated, we would have received their certification,” said Ayers. “We decertify more officers in this state than in any other state in the nation.”