A retired Pennsylvania State Police trooper said Friday he hopes the cheating scandal that thinned the ranks of graduating cadets doesn’t follow the state’s newest troopers for the rest of their careers.
Bruce E. Gaston, president of the Retired State Police Association of Pennsylvania, said allegations of cheating among the recruits could call into question the integrity of the troopers who successfully completed the academy and graduated.
“Hopefully that stigma goes away,” said Gaston, 74, of Denver, Lancaster County. “But even if a trooper wasn’t involved, he may carry that stigma. They were in the barrel with those rotten apples.”
The Pennsylvania State Police Academy graduated 48 cadets Friday. The class had 116 members when it began in September. Of the cadets who left the academy, 36 did so because of the cheating scandal, state police said. Some left voluntarily and others were kicked out, police said.
State police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker on Wednesday requested that the Office of Inspector General investigate allegations of misconduct at the Hershey academy. The state police Internal Affairs Division is conducting an investigation.
Gaston, who retired after 28 years as a trooper, said the scandal is an embarrassment to troopers and retirees. People have asked him if he cheated his way through the academy in 1971.
“To get into the academy was pretty rigid. You knew once you were in the academy, you weren’t going to screw it up, so nobody in my class or any of the classes before me would even think about cheating,” Gaston said. “I can’t believe that they did something as stupid as this.”
Blocker said he asked investigators to look into what factors may have contributed to the misconduct and to make recommendations.
Blocker has revealed few details since disclosing the cheating allegations Feb. 4 and hasn’t specified what kind of cheating was suspected. A spokeswoman for the state police declined to comment Friday as to how recruits cheated or what changes are being made because of the ongoing investigations.
The state police declined to make a member of the graduating class available to comment.
A cheating scandal previously rocked municipal police departments in Western Pennsylvania. A probe began in early 2014 after allegations arose of cheating by dozens of officers on their annual recertification exam.
A whistle-blower in a class of more than 30 officers studying Internet crimes and social media at the time told investigators that a fellow cop shipped a photographed answer key to the exam by cellphone to other students. Officials swapped out quizzes; some officers apparently did not notice and failed the test. Officials with the state police Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission in January 2014 investigated two officers with Duquesne City police and two in North Versailles.