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Monday, May 14, 2012

Inquiry Begins Into Possible Cheating in Sergeants' Exam

Port Authority Investigating Lax Response in Test Breach 
The New York Times by Joseph Goldstein and William K. Rashbaum - May 13, 2012

An inquiry into possible cheating on the sergeants’ exam at the Port Authority Police Department is leading investigators to scrutinize why several supervising officers failed to take appropriate disciplinary action or address concerns that the test’s questions may have been leaked. The inquiry has prompted the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin proceedings to fire a police captain after determining that he used his cellphone to take pictures of questions on the exam last June, shortly before it was administered, authority officials have said. Now, the authority’s office of the inspector general is investigating why the captain’s superiors initially did little to address the matter. “I am particularly alarmed by the failure of the captain’s superiors who admittedly failed to take appropriate action upon learning of this offense,” the Port Authority’s executive director, Patrick J. Foye, said in a statement. Mr. Foye said the captain’s actions were “a serious ethical breach and a clear violation of Port Authority Police Department rules — which may have violated state and federal laws.” The inspector general’s inquiry is roiling the upper echelons of the 1,700-member force, which patrols terminals, bridges, tunnels and other facilities maintained by the authority. Four people with knowledge of the investigation said that it began about a month ago and that a number of senior police officials, including the superintendent, Michael A. Fedorko, were under scrutiny. “There are people at the higher levels that didn’t take the appropriate action and that’s part of what we’re looking at,” said one of the four people, who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. “It goes to the top, the superintendent, who may not have taken the appropriate action,” the person said. Mr. Fedorko learned of the breach from two subordinates, including the captain who took the pictures, but he took no formal action, said another person, a Port Authority official who has been briefed on the inquiry. Neither the inspector general nor the authority’s human resources branch, which is involved in the promotion process, was alerted immediately after the breach was discovered, the official said. The inspector general’s office learned of what happened only last month, 10 months after the fact, two officials said.

During a meeting at Port Authority Police headquarters in Jersey City in June, Inspector Richard Brazicki observed Capt. John Ferrigno using his cellphone to take pictures of questions from the coming sergeants’ exam, said the official and a second person who has spoken to Inspector Brazicki. Captain Ferrigno, an internal affairs commander, and Inspector Brazicki were both part of a panel that would administer parts of the exam, and the various panelists were assembled to discuss the test. Inspector Brazicki informed Captain Ferrigno’s superior, Inspector Brian Sullivan, who was also present, about what he had observed, but Inspector Sullivan took no immediate action, according to two officials. A week or so later, after Inspector Brazicki pressed Inspector Sullivan about the matter, Inspector Sullivan instructed Captain Ferrigno to delete the photos from his phone while he watched, according to the official who has been briefed on the inspector general’s investigation. Inspector Brazicki, whose command includes the World Trade Center site and the Holland Tunnel, also alerted Deputy Chief Keith Walcott, one of three chiefs in the department, about the photos, two officials said. Captain Ferrigno, a 19-year veteran of the department, has told other Port Authority officials that he took the pictures, but that he had intended to use them to help him better prepare for his role administering the exam, one person briefed on the investigation said. Investigators do not have evidence that Captain Ferrigno circulated the questions among any officers who were taking the exam, the official said. The outcome of the test is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit brought by nine officers who charge that the promotion system is rigged and rife with favoritism. In a statement, Paul Nunziato, the president of the union representing Port Authority police officers, said the breach of test secrecy underscored the need for “fair and equitable promotional opportunities for all our members.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least someone had some integrity.