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Cheating scandal rocks Pennsylvania State Police Academy

The Pennsylvania State Police Academy expelled 29 cadets. Is the alleged cheating an isolated incident or evidence of a systematic problem?

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    Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Col. Tyree Blocker, standing at the podium, discusses snowstorm preparations at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency's headquarters in Susquehanna Township, Pa., Jan. 21. Commissioner Blocker on Wednesday announced that 29 cadets have been forced out of the academy following an investigation into a widespread cheating scandal.
    Dan Gleiter/PennLive.com/AP/File
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A string of cadets have been expelled from the Pennsylvania State Police Academy for cheating.

On Wednesday, the commander of the State Police announced that 29 cadets had been forced out of the academy just weeks before they were due to graduation, following an intensive investigation into a cheating scandal. The class has 70 remaining students that will graduate in mid-March.

Few details were given about the cheating probe, as the investigation is still ongoing, Commissioner Tyree Blocker told reporters.

"We're working very diligently at bringing some closure to the investigation," Commissioner Blocker told the Associated Press. "However, I want to be clear. We will not leave any stone unturned when it comes to the integrity of the Pennsylvania State Police."

However, questions remain over whether the cheating was a localized integrity issue or a broader systemic challenge. Two other state police academies have experienced similar cheating scandals in the recent past.

In April 2015, a former academy instructor exposed a cheating scandal at the Atlanta Police Academy in a statement. The statement detailed violations of rules for 25 recruits and two officers and outlined incidents of cheating during the firearms/use of deadly force written test, according to Channel 2 Action News Atlanta.

The Atlanta scandal followed a 2013 scandal at the Washington State Police Academy. Two recruits said that cadets had been using an unauthorized study guide with answers and questions on written tests. Officers in previous years may have used the guide to pass tests. Two classes of students in 2013 were forced to take an additional rewritten test to graduate, according to Seattle-based KOMO News.

Of the 29 cadets involved in the Pennsylvania cheating scandal, some were dismissed and other resigned voluntarily, according to Blocker.

Blocker also told the Associated Press that the cheating was discovered by academy staff. The testing methodology is being reviewed, but the method of cheating and the nature of its discovery has not been released.

An internal affairs unit began an investigation into the scandal in December, complete with dozens of interviews and an extensive amount of data collection.

At an Appropriations Committee hearing on the 29 cadets, Blocker told state senators that the investigation has found crucial “information that indicates those individuals were a party to what’s being described as a cheating scandal.”

The Pennsylvania State Police is one of the nation's largest law enforcement agencies with 6,000 personnel, police and civilian.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

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