HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – The 144th cadet class at the State Police Academy in Hershey is shrinking.
It stood at 73 members on Thursday morning.
It was 88 last Tuesday when ABC27 first reported a possible cheating scandal. The number dropped to 83 last Thursday.
ABC27 compared rosters and found that 15 names, all from the same platoon, have departed in the past 10 days. In a statement last week, PSP reiterated those departures are not necessarily linked to cheating.
“I fully believe that the Pennsylvania State Police is one of the most ethical organizations in the commonwealth, and I think because of the level of ethics they possess they’re gonna get out in front of this and discipline everybody involved,” retired Derry Township police chief Pat O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke spent 33 years in police work and is the son of a state trooper. He worries that law enforcement agencies across the board have lowered their standards and requirements to attract more applicants.
“When you lower the standards you get what you pay for,” O’Rourke said. “You have officers that may not be making the best decisions. Overall, 99 percent of the officers are good, but it’s unfortunate that the one percent happens to be the one who makes the news.”
Leadership at the State Police Academy consists of a major and two captains. All three will be officially switched out Friday, though we’re told that change in command was in the works before cheating was discovered in December. Governor Wolf unabashedly has pushed for increased diversity in the PSP ranks. Wolf wants more minorities and more women.
“Yes, that is a goal and it’s not just the state police,” Wolf said. “It’s throughout state government.”
But troopers past and present tell ABC27 they’re concerned that a push for diversity means an academy that’s easier to get into and easier to get through. I asked Wolf about it at a recent news conference and he rejected the premise.
“Making sure that every part of state government looks like the people it serves does not mean we reduce standards in any area, from integrity to qualifications,” Wolf said. “This is not a quota system.”
But it is an expensive system. It’s estimated to cost $100,000 to put one cadet through the academy. Though PSP cautions that those recent departures aren’t necessarily tied to cheating, certainly some or most of them are, sources confirm. Fifteen cadets don’t just up and leave five weeks before the scheduled March 18 graduation.
So, a modest estimate of the cheating scandal’s cost is a million dollars – and counting.
PSP now confirms that Friday’s planned Family Day at the academy has been postponed, as ABC27 reported last week.