Show of hands: how many of you believe actual cheating occurred?
None of the six former cadets jettisoned from the Pennsylvania State Police Academy’s 144th class raised their hands. They gathered in a Lemoyne conference room at ABC27’s request. In all, 40 former cadets were dismissed or resigned.
How many of you think state police were wrong in the terminations or separations?
All raised their hands.
Joshua Butler, of East Windsor, New Jersey, and Shane Harper, of Clearfield, were told by investigators that they flunked a polygraph.
“They told me I was lying about cheating,” Butler said.
Was he lying?
“No,” he said matter-of-factly.
Polygraphs are inadmissible in court, and these former cadets now understand why.
“They said I was deceptive on the question “Are you afraid we’re gonna ask you more questions?'” Harper said. “That’s the whole reason they said I failed the polygraph.”
The six are all college graduates. They all insist they were encouraged to study together, make study guides, take notes, and make notations in their books. Everybody did it, they said, but only half the class was sent home.
“There’s people that are troopers on the road right now that did the same thing I did with the study guides,” said Eva Bobowicz of Sayreville, New Jersey. “There’s troopers from my class that are troopers now and I’m sitting here talking to you about it and I’m not a trooper.”
They also said their study habits were accepted practice and endorsed by academy staff.
“I have records of notes passed down from the 140th class all the way to 144th,” said Brodie Colvin of Williamsport. “It was common practice and there’s proof of it.”
Josh Bucior of Philipsburg says he so wanted to be a trooper that he had a painful skin graft to cover a forearm tattoo. He showed us the scar. With that kind of dedication, he asks, why would he cheat on a test and hurt his chances?
But Bucior feels the group was cheated out of due process. He said when investigators questioned him about cheating, they didn’t take notes or record his responses.
“That pretty much told you right then and there that they didn’t care what you were saying. They were going through the process and you were gonna be terminated the next day,” he said.
State Police will not answer our questions about the process used to dismiss more than 40 men and women but did issue a statement:
“Each person dismissed for academic dishonesty at the academy received a thorough, individual investigation. Individuals who resigned did so of their own accord. The decisions are final,” the statement read.
Most former cadets tell ABC27 they were given a choice: resign or be fired. Most chose to resign.
“We didn’t want our reputation to go down the dumpster by getting fired by the Pennsylvania State Police,” Butler said. “They just made us scapegoats for their wrongdoing.”
Some suspect that police management, under fire for the way it ran the academy, wanted to dramatically show it was fixing the problem.
“They must have found something they were doing wrong at the academy and said, ‘oh, s–t, let me just, I don’t know, let’s just fire a bunch of people to make ourselves look good,” Bobowicz said. “They were basically cleaning house to make themselves look good, but they cleaned the wrong people. They got rid of the wrong people.”
Wronged is how these people feel, booted just weeks before graduation. There’s still bitterness and a strong sense of injustice.
“There’s slobs that come to the academy week one and can’t make it two days,” said Matt Defibaugh of Bedford. “We made it 20-plus weeks. Give me a freakin’ break.”
It is estimated that it costs $100,000 to train and equip a cadet. Add that to the cost of investigating the so-called cheating scandal and the saga’s cost is well into the millions of dollars.
And then there’s the loss of man and woman power that should be on patrol and on the street but isn’t.