Thirty Georgia State Patrol troopers were fired following a four-month investigation into allegations that every member of the 106th Trooper School cheated on departmental exams. Two members of the original 33 who graduated were assigned to the Gainesville Post. Tickets issued by the fired troopers may be contestable in court.
“Disciplinary action was taken this morning against 30 members of the Georgia State Patrol following investigation by the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) for the Department of Public Safety,” announced Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark W. McDonough at a press conference held this morning, Jan. 29. “The disciplinary action was their immediate dismissal from the department.”
The investigation was initiated in October 2019 when an allegation was made that the entire 106th Trooper School cheated on the online exam for the “speed detection operator” component of the trooper school curriculum – the section of the training that deals with, among other things, the use of “RADAR speed detection devices.”
My opinion of the class is it wasn't so hard. It was something you had to pay attention to, but it wasn't rocket science, it wasn't engineering," McDonough said of the speed detection device curriculum.
OPS investigators interviewed two members of the class, who both corroborated the allegations. Comments made during the interviews led to investigators interviewing the remaining members of the class, all of which acknowledged cheating on the specified exam. In addition to helping each other with exam questions, it was also verified that a training instructor “printed written makeup exams and permitted two cadets who had failed (the online exam) to return to their dorm room and turn the exam in the next day,” McDonough said.
Of the 33 graduating cadets in the 106th Trooper School, two were originally assigned to the Gainesville Post. The three cadets not fired were not identified out of the list the graduating cadets that was provided, and the only information given on the discrepancy between the number of individuals dismissed, and the number of cadets in the graduating class, was that one trooper was on military leave, and another had previously resigned for unspecified reasons.
The violation of the GSP Code of Conduct by an entire class of cadets was a personal “punch in the gut,” McDonough added.
“Our whole mode is to produce an officer the public can trust,” he said. “This goes to our very core values. It is something that is very difficult to swallow.”
In response to an inquiry by a journalist at the press conference, McDonough said the investigation would continue, including a complete audit of the training department and potential disciplinary action against department leadership. He also advised reporters that a directive had been issued at the beginning of the investigation to remove speed timing devices from the patrol cars of any officers in the 106th class, and to restrict the officers from writing, or assisting in, the issuance of any further speed-related tickets. However, approximately 133 tickets were written by troopers where were members of the 106th Trooper School prior to the directive being issued. McDonough did not specify if those tickets would be voided, though he did say that there would be possible grounds for them to be “vacated” if challenged.
"I know what i would do," (if he had been issued one of the 133 tickets) he said. "And so part of what we will do will be notifying the court systems that those citations are written and the actions we've taken against the officer that wrote them."
In order to address the potential for cheating in the future, McDonough said that he was going to be looking into removing the online option for exams.
"In this instance our training academy is a resident academy, so my initial reaction is to completely move away from any type of online instruction and then all of our instruction will occur by instructors in the classroom, with what's supposed to be proctored exams," he said.
As cadets, prospective troopers spend 20 weeks at the academy and 12 weeks in field training. The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) requires all peace officers receive a minimum of 400 hours of Basic Mandate Training. At the completion of Trooper School, newly graduated troopers received more than 1,500 hours of training, including driving, defensive tactics, vehicle stops, Spanish, criminal law and criminal procedure, firearms, accident investigation, and various other training, according to the Georgia State Patrol.
Graduating members of the 106th Trooper School
Erguens Accilien - Post 21 - Sylvania
David Allan - Post 6 - Gainesville
Jalin Anderson - Post 33 - Milledgeville
Erik Austell - Post 15 - Perry
Evan Bauza - Post 11 - Hinesville
Logan Beck - Post 23 - Brunswick
Christopher Cates - Post 27 – Blue Ridge
Seferino Chavez - Post 47 – Forest Park
Demon Clark - Post 17 - Washington
Christopher Cordell - Post 5 - Dalton
Clint Donaldson - Post 49 – Motor Unit
Eric Guerrero - Post 36 - Douglas
Jonathan Hayes - Post 29 - Paulding
Nicholas Hawkins - Post 46 - Monroe
Bradley Hunt - Post 2 - LaGrange
Clarence Johnson - Post 25 - Grovetown
Evan Joyner - Post 2 - LaGrange
Richard Justice - Post 25 - Grovetown
Malcolm Martinez - Post 47 – Forest Park
Rebecca Moran - Post 51 - Gwinnett
Paul Osuegbu - Post 6 - Gainesville
Jose Perez - Post 13 - Tifton
Patrick Pollett - Post 25 - Grovetown
Troy Pudder - Post 30 - Cordele
Caleb Pyle - Post 24 – Newnan
Daysi Ramirez - Post 15 - Perry
Gabriel Rampy - Post 4 – Villa Rica
Adam Salter - Post 26 - Thomaston
Jerry Slade - Post 30 - Cordele
Kyle Thompson - Post 36 - Douglas
James Vaughan - Post 10 - Americus
Brian Whelehan - Post 23 - Brunswick
Kelley Whitaker - Post 14 – Colquitt