ATLANTA (AP) — Reviews suggest that at least 500 law enforcement officers in Georgia may have lied about fulfilling required training in the last year.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (http://bit.ly/Syfnjg ) the police officers and sheriff's deputies may have taken advantage of a glitch in the new program used for online training courses. As a result, law enforcement agencies across the state have been told to investigate whether their officers actually completed required training.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, or POST, said its reviews suggest at least 500 officers may have said they completed training when they didn't. But the actual number may be tough to get because it requires chiefs and sheriffs to review the council's online records for each of the 15,000 officers that did online testing during the 11 months before the glitch was caught.
The problem was discovered after the Cumming Police Department reported finding discrepancies in 15 officers' online training records.
Since the problem was discovered in March, some officers have lost training hours while others have been dismissed. An Oconee County deputy was fired a few weeks ago because he said he had completed 20 hours of online training, but computer records show he only spent eight minutes online.
The effects could be long-lasting if an implicated officer or deputy has to testify in court or is involved in a shooting. A defense attorney would likely want to make sure jurors knew the officer had been accused of unethical behavior or lying.
"That's pretty embarrassing," said Frank Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. "Our goal is for an officer to be who they say they are when they sit in the witness stand. If an officer would compromise something like this, it's natural for someone to ask 'what else would they compromise?' Ethics and integrity in our work is paramount."
The Public Safety Training Center designed the programs and said some problems could be chalked up to a "learning curve" on the custom-made system. The center says glitches in the online program either didn't accurately record time spent in training or allowed officers to get credit without actually completing training.
"Since we lost the ability to track students for 11 months, we cannot say with certainty that all students attended 100 percent of the presentation," according to the training center email. "However, I am confident that not all students were attempting to circumvent presentations for credit."
The new online training was offered at a one-time cost of $1,000 as a way to save money, the training center email said. The previous program had cost the state $50,000 a year.
But officers were able to get to the end of the session and click "submit" for an hour or two of credit within a few seconds of being logged in.
"Word gets around. We know it went on for several months before we caught it" 11 months later, said Ken Vance, executive director of POST, which regulates and certifies law enforcement in Georgia.
But training center assistant director Keith Howard said he doesn't believe the misuse is out of control. The program designer didn't think safeguards were needed because he didn't think law enforcement officers would lie, Howard said.