This week, the Georgia Department of Public Safety terminated the employment of an entire class of Georgia State Patrol troopers. The news broke and has the public asking questions and feeling uneasy. It also has The Georgia Department of Public Safety scrambling to deal with the abrupt loss of a number of employees who were tasked with keeping the roadways in the state of Georgia safe. In this post, we will let you know what actually happened, share what leadership in Georgia commented on the incident, and let you know what we believe this means moving forward.
In 2019, a Georgia State Patrol training class of 31 cadets successfully completed the academy and were admitted to the force. Before their unethical behavior was uncovered, unfortunately, these cadets transitioned into taxpayer funded peace officers. It came to the light that these former trainees and now troopers cheated on a critical exam in the training academy that was needed to graduate. This happened in late 2019, when a citizen came forward and disclosed that she had taken an online radar test for one of the cadets. The department opened up an internal probe after hearing this citizen’s claims. This investigation led to uncovering that the entire class had cheated, which was verified when the troopers were questioned and they admitted to cheating.
The public has questions and is feeling uneasy about this development. One citizen was quoted saying, “It makes me think, what else is going on, you know? What else is going on that the public doesn’t get to hear about?” Another citizen added, “We can’t have public servants who don’t have a fundamental sense of ethics.”
The Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner, Col. Mark McDonough, recently held a press conference to address the mass terminations of these troopers. “It’s a punch in the gut,” McDonough said. “Our whole mode is to produce an officer that the public can trust. This goes to our very core values, and so it is something that is difficult to swallow.” McDonough went on to state that the department has already notified several courts to flag more than 100 cases the troopers were involved in before they were fired.
Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, who has been known to support law enforcement and view them as a vital tool in reducing crime, had a spokesperson release a statement to the press saying, “We’re closely monitoring the situation to get answers and ensure that this issue is properly addressed. It’s a serious matter and we’re glad it’s been brought to light.” At the publishing of this article, this was the only statement that had been released from the Office of the Governor. As a citizen who has the right to be informed, if you would like to follow up and hear more about what they plan to do, or have additional questions you want answered, here is the contact information in order to reach the Office of the Governor.
We here at RED realize this news was not ideal. There are individuals in communities being served by the Georgia State Patrol that have a distrust for law enforcement and will point to this event as yet another instance to reinforce that notion. However, we also know and understand that it must not have been easy for the Georgia leadership and other troopers in the Georgia State Patrol to acknowledge that individuals within their ranks were unethical. This event reduces manpower and puts a strain on the entire department to scramble to make up for an abrupt loss of a sizable number of employees. Additionally, the government is now tasked with going back on over 100 cases and re-examining them to make sure all procedures were followed, and no unethical practices occurred. This incident has a ripple effect that has consequences for both the department, our community – from an economic and safety standpoint, and the perception of Georgia’s law enforcement. How much has this truly cost our community?
This event illustrates how we all make mistakes, even police officers. The way forward, for anyone, is honesty and transparency. Participants in our RED program have had troublesome experiences with law enforcement. Aside from assessing police training to weed out these bad eggs before they are admitted and allowed to practice on our roads with our taxpaying dollars, we here are RED believe we can also teach the public how to monitor public servants and know when they are out of bounds. In our curriculum, one of the areas we emphasize is educating our participants on knowing their rights. We believe that by instilling a sense of community and relationship building – specifically, understanding how to interact with law enforcement and knowing what they are allowed and not allowed to do, we will have more informed, engaged, and trusting citizens. Hear from a returning citizen and member of our RED family on his experience calling the police for the first time by clicking here.
It takes courage and shows that leadership in Georgia’s government and the Georgia Department of Public Safety is committed overall to being ethical, upholding their oaths, and protecting the communities they serve. This was clearly demonstrated when the department realized it had troopers that did not reflect what they stood for; instead of worrying about the public fallout and protecting these compromised officers, they acted swiftly in acknowledging and owning the problem, and then removing the cancer from their ranks. Social justice and criminal reform cannot succeed unless all four corners of society are working toward the same goal and trust in each other to each do their part in achieving it. There is still work to be done, but Georgia leadership took the more difficult road in this issue, the road of acknowledgement and ownership. And that speaks volumes. We trust that these former troopers have at the very least suspended their right to serve as law enforcement, for any jurisdiction, and praise the department for making room to allow other, ethical, citizens who will honor their oath an opportunity to serve.
Source: WSB-TV Channel 2 News: “31 Troopers dismissed after cheating on exam at training academy”.