An editorial opinion from the Standard-Speaker in Hazleton:
The disclosure of details related to a cheating scandal at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy warrants a wider investigation.
State Inspector General Bruce Beemer released a recent review that documented how cadets at the academy cheated on tests, how instructors provided answers to trainees and how the academy failed to change exams, sometimes for years.
The scandal came to light initially in December 2015 with the discovery of a “cheat sheet” and it resulted in the resignation or dismissal of more than 40 members of a class that graduated in the spring of 2016.
Beemer’s report discloses that an internal review in 2014 called for improvements at the academy, but it was unclear if any were implemented before the cheating came to light. Regardless, the review proves that dysfunction at the academy went far beyond a single cheating incident. The report hints at a pattern of corruption and reflects negatively on the entire state police corps.
Internal state police investigations found no other evidence to dismiss other instructors, cadets or troopers. That review, therefore, leaves questions as to whether there has been a tacit acceptance of cheating, if not covert approval, within the state police. Law enforcement authorities are well-known for closing ranks during scandals and periods of adversity.
The inspector general’s revelations do immeasurable harm to the image of the state police. Worse, the report undermines the core credibility of the force, which relies on public trust to function.
State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker’s reaction to the report indicated he believes the scandal reflects a recent phenomenon, a bad exception to the rule. But it seems clear that he does not know how far back the cheating pattern may extend.
The state police are taking steps to create unique tests for cadets, institute term limits for instructors and introduce other reforms. However, the inspector general’s report leaves many issues unresolved, especially regarding the depth of cheating and how long it existed.
Gov. Tom Wolf should call on Attorney General Josh Shapiro to appoint a special prosecutor to press the investigation further. The public deserves answers and the integrity of the state police must be assured.