Rockdale sheriff’s investigators suspended for possible cheating

Seven Rockdale County deputies have been suspended with pay while the Sheriff’s Office investigates suspicions that they cheated on an on-line test about Georgia law that was offered by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

“We had information that an investigator took the online test, wrote the answers down and then subsequently passed those test answers on to other investigators within criminal investigations,” Chief Deputy Scott Freeman told Channel 2 Action News Wednesday.

A sergeant heard of the alleged answer sharing on Friday and it was reported up the line. An inquiry started almost immediately.

The seven suspended were among 15 investigators assigned to general investigations in the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office. There are a total of 26 investigators in office.

Rockdale Sheriff Eric Levett has notified District Attorney Richard Read who said it was too soon for him to know how this will affect cases. Three of the suspended deputies were scheduled to appear before a Rockdale County grand jury next week so those cases will be delayed. Cases still under investigation also could be slowed, Read said.

He will wait for the results of the internal investigation, which should take a few days, as well as a decision by the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council.

“It’s too early for me to know,” Read said. “I’ve got to have more facts and more details.”

The internal investigation in Rockdale County comes almost three months after state officials announced that more than 500 Georgia law enforcement officers, taking advantage of a glitch in a new program, might have lied about taking required training online in the last year.

In those instances, officers would go immediately to the end of the training and click “submit” for one or two hours of credit even if only seconds had been spent with the course. In one instance, a deputy in Oconee County claimed 20 hours of training was taken in eight minutes.

In Rockdale, however, it was a matter of deputies simply sharing the answers on the test of their knowledge of state laws, Freeman said. It was not attributed to problems with the computer program used to administer the test.

Earlier this year and after discovering glitches in its computer program, POST told law enforcement agencies statewide to investigate whether their deputies and officers had lied about completing required training. The problem with the program allowed officers to jump to the end of on-line courses and still claim credit for taking it. Certified Georgia law enforcement officers are required to have a minimum of 20 hours in continuing education training annually to ensure they stay current with trends, policies and laws.

Freeman said Rockdale County deputies will be shifted to different assignments to fill gaps created when the seven were suspended.

“It will be difficult but we are certainly prepared to do what is necessary because the operations of the sheriff’s office must go on and they will go on,” Freeman said.