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Probe: Academy recruits broke exam rule, didn't cheat

A Washington State Patrol investigation found that recruits shared study guides between classes

By Steve Miletich
The Seattle Times

BURIEN, Wash. — Recruits at the state police academy in Burien broke a rule when they shared study guides between classes, but the violations didn't rise to the level of cheating or dishonesty, according to preliminary results of a Washington State Patrol investigation.

The result, which revealed sloppy test practices, relate to one class that was allowed to graduate Wednesday, with all 29 recruits receiving a written reprimand that will be provided to their respective law-enforcement agencies to consider further action.

The investigation will be completed over the next two weeks into 29 recruits in a second class also implicated, the academy said in a statement released Wednesday by Executive Director Sue Rahr of the state criminal-justice training commission.

Rahr asked the State Patrol to look into allegations of cheating after a recruit at the Basic Law Enforcement Academy came forward three weeks ago and reported that recruits in two of three classes were sharing material from a computer thumb drive — a small, portable data-storage device — containing information from a study guide. The guide included test questions and answers for multiple exams, the academy said.

The State Patrol, which runs its own training academy, was asked to conduct the investigation to avoid any conflict of interest.

While the findings apply to one class, they also appear to cover the second class, Rahr said in an email.

The investigation made it clear the questions and answers were legitimately obtained by the recruits when training officers conducted "overly specific" review sessions in the days before tests were administered, according to the academy's statement.

Training officers discussed actual test questions and answers, the statement said. Recruits took verbatim notes on their laptop computers and added material to class study guides that was electronically stored by various means, including thumb drives.

These practices were "not a good training method" and have been stopped, the statement said.

Over time, the guides grew to include questions and answers to most written tests, according to the statement.

Study guides appear to have been handed down from class to class in violation of academy rules, the statement said.

The investigation found the overly specific reviews and compiling of questions and answers in study guides has been going on for a number of years.

As a result, all written tests have been rewritten and a new final exam will be given to all recruits who had access to the compromised study guides, the academy said. The recruits must pass it to graduate.

All members of the class that graduated Wednesday passed the exam, according to the statement.

Tests no longer will use the same questions and answers over time, and the academy will use software that randomly selects from a master list of questions and creates a new test for each class.

Instructors won't conduct test reviews with actual questions, the statement said, adding that "tighter oversight and monitoring" has been implemented.

Previously, the academy has said that it is unlikely an unqualified recruit could become a police officer because of a vigorous overall testing process.

Copyright 2013 The Seattle Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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