Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker answered the question quite forcefully on March 1 when asked if the cheating scandal at the PSP Academy might scuttle the upcoming graduation of cadets.
“There will be a graduation on March 18th,” Blocker insisted. “It’s just a matter of how many cadets will graduate on March 18.”
That was always the question since cheating was uncovered in the 144th class at the Academy in Hershey in December.
PSP answered that question Thursday in the form of a one-sentence press release announcing Friday’s graduation at Bishop McDevitt High School:
“The graduation ceremony for 49 state police cadets will be attended by federal, state and county dignitaries and other law enforcement agencies,” it read.
Just 49 cadets or 44 percent of the 113 who began in the class in September. Some attrition always happens at the grueling PSP Academy. Fair to say, this much attrition has never happened to the historic law enforcement agency.
Much of the atrophy is tied to dismissals or resignations as a result of suspected cheating.
PSP discovered and have been internally investigating cheating at the academy since December. On Wednesday, it asked the Pennsylvania Inspector General to also investigate what went wrong and why. Blocker has been insisting for weeks that no stone will be left unturned in the effort to root out cheating and cheaters.
“It’s imperative that we get this right,” Blocker said, also on March 1. “I am committed to ensuring that we have the necessary resources to comprehensively address the allegations.”
The most recent roster sheet that PSP released is from March 4. It had 64 cadets still in the 144th class. But only 49 of them will graduate. So what’s up with the remaining 15? Blocker hinted at an answer two weeks ago after saying that the investigation would not be rushed because of an arbitrary graduation date.
“It’s not beyond reason, if this investigation is still ongoing, that individuals associated with the 144th class, we theoretically, could hold them over for graduation with the 145th class,” Blocker said.
The 145th class, which began as a smaller class than the 144th, had 61 cadets as of March 4. It began in December and is set to graduate June 17. Blocker said no one in the 145th class has thus far been tied to the cheating scandal.
So the show will go on Friday morning at Bishop McDevitt. Cadets becoming troopers is typically a joyous occasion. Blocker will speak and he has steadfastly maintained that those who graduate will have earned it and have lived up to the PSP core values of integrity and honor.
But sitting on that sparsely filled stage, with so many of their classmates gone, many in the 144th might feel as gray as their new uniforms.