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LEA director accused of cheating; DPS will establish hotline

Created: 03/10/2014 10:49 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

KOB Eyewitness News 4 discovered some honest police cadets at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy tried to turn in their superiors for cheating.

Our investigation took us to the highest levels of law enforcement in the state.

By the end of it, the Department of Public Safety pledged to implement a system that could keep the men and women who are learning to serve and protect from feeling afraid to report wrongdoing. 

One April day last year, an unknown number of New Mexico Police Academy cadets wrote a letter.

"Govoner (sic) Martinez, a few of us are concerned," reads the letter.

A message they hoped would reach our state's highest office.

"Can you please do something about this?" it continues.

This story is the first time the public has ever seen the letter.

But leaders at New Mexico's law enforcement academy saw it a year ago, addressed to academy board member Nate Korn, and Governor Susana Martinez.

It's about Jack Jones, the man in charge of teaching men and women how to become cops.

The letter is written in all caps, and has many grammar and spelling errors, but we're showing it to you exactly as it is written. A portion reads:

"MR. (Jack) JONES HAS BEEN GIVING US THE TEST QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS BEFORE WE TAKE ANY OF THE TESTS. A FEW OTHER INSTRUCTORS HAS (SIC) ALSO DONE THIS. WE DON'T WANT TO GET INTO TROUBLE, BUT WE DON'T WANT TO BE CHEETERS (SIC)."

It's signed: "A FEW OF ACADEMY (class) 185" --  57 cadets who graduated last June.

But another letter obtained by KOB is much less anonymous. 

An internal Department of Public Safety memo dated 2 months before the anonymous letter from cadets expresses the very same concerns about instructors teaching exam questions.

But the memo is from someone much higher up the chain of command. .

In the February 12, 2013 memo, law enforcement academy basic bureau chief Phil Gallegos writes to his boss Jack Jones.

He says Jones told him: 'We have to teach the test.'

Gallegos goes on to write he's complied with requests from Jones to turn over answers to cadet exams, but adds "... If we walk down this path it will create bigger problems for us."

Gallegos no longer works for the law enforcement academy.

KOB sat down with DPS communications director Tony Lynn to talk about the allegations. We asked for an interview with academy director Jones, but instead Lynn said he would answer our questions about the anonymous cadet letter and the memo from Phil Gallegos.

"Was he terminated?" asked KOB's Caleb James.

"No, he was not," said Lynn.  

"Someone might look at this and say, he brought concerns to his superiors that accused them of wrongdoing and not long after, he leaves," said James.

"Sometimes if you don't like a place, you switch jobs," Lynn replied.

Then we asked about Jack Jones. Did he give out exam questions and answers?

"Of course everything on the test is taught," said Lynn.

"I've heard the term a million times: teach to the test, right? You teach to the test. This phrase here that Phil uses in his memo is we have to 'teach the test.' Is there a difference there to you?" said James.

"Not to me," said Lynn. "Not to our instructors. We're just, we're teaching. Then we're quizzing on what we taught."

Lynn continued.

"I don't know what, 'teaching the test' would be other than saying, 'On question 40 the answer is B,'" he said. "That would be teaching the test."    

Months before this letter, KOB exposed how exam scores suddenly spiked at the academy.

In February 2013, 80% of cadets scored at the top of the chart. Only about 6% scored that high in prior years.

The anonymous April letter writers were well-aware of the accusations against that previous class.

"Another class was accused of being cheeters (sic), and we don't want to be looked at this way," reads the letter.

Lynn told KOB when DPS learned of the cadets' letter, the New Mexico Attorney General's office spoke to the class and gave them a number to call.

Lynn said no one did, and added that investigations by his own department turned up nothing.

"Since this letter, let's say in the last year since last April, what has Jack Jones done to improve the academy specifically?" asked James.

"Boy I, you know, I wish I could give you specific examples," said Lynn. "But I don't sit in on the classes, so I can't give you a specific on that."

So KOB offered a suggestion -- for DPS to establish an anonymous hotline so anyone can report wrongdoing at the academy.

"For the cadets to call, for anyone within the academy who sees a concern, they want to call and report their concerns anonymously, they want those to be logged and accessible to the public?" asked James.

Lynn agreed to implement the system.

"Oh, that would be no problem," he said. 

Now, KOB will stay on top of the process to put that new hotline in place at the academy.

Currently, large corporations are required by law to have similar hotlines, but Tony Lynn said DPS will take it further and make the complaints to their hotline public record.

KOB of course will let viewers know when the hotline is up and running.  


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