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City Watchdog: Over 1,200 NYPD Officers Looking for a Promotion Cheated on the Sergeant’s Exam

The City says the cheating didn't actually help anyone pass the exam, however.

(Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu, Matthias Kinsella / Unsplash)

What's arguably worse than cheating on an exam by getting the questions in advance? Cheating on the exam and failing it anyway. 

An investigation from the City's Department of Investigation found that around 1,200 NYPD officers cheated while taking their promotional exam, yet the cheating was apparently for naught, because it didn't meaningfully improve their test scores.

According to the report, the cheating scandal arose in the summer of 2022, when 10,000 NYPD officers gathered at the Javits Center over two days to take the exam to become a sergeant—an "unprecedented" number caused by the fact that COVID delayed the exam for nearly two years. 

The officers brought along with them their cell phones, group chats, and camera phones, to help one another pass the exam through sharing the questions with one another, brainstorming answers, and offering helpful pieces of advice. 

While signs throughout the convention center told officers to keep their phones off and in a clear plastic bag beneath their seats, that clearly was not the case, according to a new report from the City's Department of Investigation, which was written in response to allegations of "widespread cheating, involving candidates who took the Exam on Day 1 and passed questions and answers to candidates taking the Exam on Day 2." 

That's right, because even though the test was offered on two consecutive days, the tests were identical, and officers were able to tell one another about what would be on the test the next day. Screenshots of messages obtained by the NY Post at the time show officers just sending one another the answers on group chats. 

"DOI’s investigation substantiated that 95 percent of the Exam content was the same in the two sessions on Day 1 and the two sessions on Day 2, that candidates used their cell phones in the waiting room where the sessions were being offered, and that test takers shared content of the Exam from the first session on Day 1," the report found.

On top of that, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which administered the test as it does all other civil service exams, didn't even bother to check if the officers taking the test were eligible, leading, incredibly, to a retired NYPD captain who now runs an NYPD exam prep course, sitting for the exam (the investigation actually found that the retired captain had actually previously sat for 19 exams that he was ineligible for). The retired captain scored just 3 percent on the test, which the captain then explained to NYPD internal affairs investigators "because he intentionally chooses the wrong answers to be able to protest any questions he believes to be unfair." The captain then tried to take another test in 2023, but he was finally barred from taking it. 

As a result of the cheating, the NYPD's internal affairs bureau disciplined seven officers—with  penalties ranging from the stripping of three to 30 vacation days. 

So are there a bunch of NYPD Sergeant's walking around city streets (or more likely sitting behind a desk) who didn't legitimately pass the exam? It's possible, but DOI says even with cheating, they didn't think it gave test-takers an unfair advantage—that's because the passage rate actually fell between day one and day two over the four-and-a-half hour test. 

"DOI found that 28.20 percent of candidates passed the first session, 18.52 percent passed the second session, 4 percent of candidates passed the third session, and 12.51 percent of candidates passed the fourth session," the report found. 

The NYPD has not yet responded to a request for comment from Hell Gate. 

DOI says that DCAS has already begun to implement some of its recommendations, which include having better training for test proctors, and screening test-takers more thoroughly for eligibility. 

"We strive to make our civil service tests fair, balanced, and secure, and we have already implemented more than half of the DOI’s recommendations as part of our own continuous evaluation of our testing practices. We will continue to bolster the strength of our test-taking process," Dan Kastanis, a spokesperson for DCAS, told Hell Gate in a statement.

And we're sure DCAS's new leadership will definitely be a stickler for rule-following. Ah, nevertheless.

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