An entire graduating class of the Georgia State Patrol’s Trooper School -- including at least two troopers who were working out of Brunswick -- was implicated in a cheating scandal that resulted in large scale disciplinary actions.
Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Col. Mark W. McDonough confirmed 30 troopers were fired Wednesday after being accused of cheating on an online exam for the speed detection operator component of the school’s curriculum.
There were originally 33 August graduates of the 106th Trooper School. Of the original members of the class, according to CNN, one resigned, one is on military leave and another was previously dismissed before the investigation was complete. That means the 30 remaining troopers were dropped from the force on Wednesday, according to McDonough.
McDonough said the investigation began in October after officials learned about the allegations from the girlfriend of one of the cadets, who said she took the online test for him. When confronted about that, the trooper told superiors, “He was not the only one who cheated, the whole class cheated,” and that’s when the decision was made to investigate the entire class.
McDonough said State Patrol’s investigation confirmed four allegations: every trooper cheated on speed detection operator exam; a cadet helped another cadet with their exam; three cadets assisted another with their exam; and a training instructor printed a makeup exam and permitted two cadets who failed to take it back to their rooms for studying purposes.
“It’s a punch in the gut,” McDonough said. “This goes to our very core values and so it is something that is difficult to swallow.”
McDonough said all the graduates signed an oath to uphold professional conduct and standards, which they violated, leading to Wednesday’s dismissals. He added that the troopers used typed notes, received direct assistance and utilized test questions and answers on GroupMe and on a website that aggregates tests. He also said they used two Snapchat groups to facilitate the cheating and get their stories straight as the investigation was ongoing.
“I don’t think that’s fair at all,” said driver Annette Stenglein. “They’ve got to go through the rules just like anybody else.”
The troopers were on the job for about six months, assigned to several posts throughout the Peach State. News4Jax learned at least two were on patrol in Brunswick: Logan Beck and Brian Whelehan.
“It’s sad,” said motorist Kaliza Clark. “And that would be something that bothers me because they give people tickets.”
Taxpayers footed the bill for the troopers to go through the Atlanta-area academy. The cadets went through 32 weeks of training -- 20 weeks at the academy and 12 weeks in-field training. The newly graduated troopers then received more than 1,500 hours of training, CNN reported.
McDonough said the agency is reaching out to courts in counties across Georgia to take a close look at the 100-plus cases the troopers were involved in during their half-year on the job.
“We have a responsibility to maintain that relationship with the public and to show that we’ll handle our business even when it is very, very difficult,” McDonough said. “And this a difficult thing.”
McDonough said he’s ordered a complete audit of the training department, which could lead to people higher up being disciplined and online testing going away. The Governor’s Office is also looking into the scandal.
The commissioner added that it is impacting public safety. There are fewer troopers on the patrol and now the agency will have to replace them. McDonough said, however, he can’t have people that aren’t trustworthy holding such important jobs.