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15 Cleveland police recruits fired after investigation into cheating at Cleveland Police Academy

September 17, 2018

15 Cleveland police recruits fired after investigation into cheating at Cleveland Police Academy

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Fifteen Cleveland police recruits were fired Friday after an internal investigation found the group cheated during their police academy training.

Cleveland police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia confirmed the firings on Monday. The city and police department have not yet addressed the investigation or firings.

An attorney representing nine of the recruits, Sean Sobel, also confirmed the firings and said he would comment at a later time.

The cheating accusations are related to notebooks the recruits are required to keep as part of their Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy certification training. The 15 recruits were accused of sharing and copying notes.

The notebooks are inspected, and recruits are required to take detailed notes. They are judged on content, neatness and formatting.

A lawsuit filed by nine of the 15 says the recruits are encouraged to copy, verbatim, wording that is used in class presentations. They are also encouraged to work together, and help under-performing recruits, including by sharing notes, the lawsuit says.

The 66-recruit class began its courses Feb. 5. The investigation began in July, when a recruit “accessed and copied from another student’s electronic notes without permission,” the lawsuit says.  

The recruit, who is identified in the lawsuit only as J.Y., later admitted to cheating, the lawsuit says. That recruit then tried to “sabotage” other recruits by sending an academy supervisor an anonymous message that implicated 33 classmates in a larger cheating scandal, the lawsuit says.

Police academy supervisors confiscated the 33 recruits’ notebooks as part of the investigation.

Eighteen of the 33 recruits were cleared and permitted to take the state exam, including some who were cleared “immediately.” Police officials did not indicate why they were cleared and the others weren’t, the lawsuit says. 

The 15 recruits sued the city on the grounds that they believed the investigation wasn’t completed at the time the OPOTA test and should have been allowed to take the test with the investigation pending.

U.S. District Judge James Gwin disagreed and said in his ruling that the city had no jurisdiction over the recruits. City attorneys argued that the state certifies “commanders,” who are in charge of administering OPOTA training.

The OPOTA commander for the Cleveland Police Academy, Sgt. Sean Smith, was acting as a state employee when he barred the recruits from taking the test because he deemed they failed the notebook section of the training.

Fifty recruits took and passed their OPATA licensing exams and were sworn in as police officers on Aug. 24.

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